Friday, October 28, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan


My grandmother made the best Eggplant Parmesan known to man. No joke. It was soft, cheesy, salty, sweet from the tomatoes, crispy on the edges and generally perfection in every way. Knowing this, you would think I make it all the time, right? But, I don't. And, I haven't. Ever.
It's just been one of those dishes that intimidates me. Plus, the thought of salting all that eggplant, then having to wait for it to drain, then making a sauce, then assembling it, then doing the mountain of dishes you created using 5 plates, a pot, a colander and a skillet. Well, you just really have to be in the mood.
Another reason is why make it myself when I have my mother's version available numerous times a year? You see, in my opinion [sorry Dad, you've got grandma's meatballs down to a science] my mother can replicate this signature dish exactly. I love when she makes it and so does my entire family.
However, this isn't doing me any good at the moment, as my mother recently moved away...2,207 miles away from me to be exact. She left Connecticut and is fulfilling her dream of living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming {where my brother can have all the eggplant he wants}.

This past summer was my second year growing our own eggplant in the garden. It was also much more prolific than last year and by early September I had many, many eggplants. More than I really knew what to do with. They were harvested and stored in the crisper drawer for a few weeks while I waited for a free Sunday afternoon to tackle the task of making this dish.

In the meantime, I happened to take a look at Marcella Hazan's version in her cookbook, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and it didn't seem too far off the mark in terms of how I think my Mother makes hers. I could have just called her and asked for her recipe, but I most likely would have gotten something more along the lines of a technique...and I knew the basic technique.

I was attracted to aspects of Marcella's version because it doesn't require making a traditional tomato sauce {I didn't have a lazy afternoon to go the Sunday gravy route}. In this version, the chopped, canned tomatoes are simmered in nothing but olive oil until reduced and thickened. Unless you're planning on serving some spaghetti with sauce on the side...in which case, you should go ahead and make the gravy...her simple method of cooking the tomatoes works wonderfully.

So, this is my simpler Eggplant Parmesan. It uses about half my family's traditional method and half Marcella's. I urge you to try it, as it's really not as hard as I made it out to be and it can be made ahead. Just reheat and serve.
Now tell me - What is the dish no one makes better than someone in your family...your Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Spouse?

Eggplant Parmesan

Inspired by the Eggplant Parmesan my Mother makes and by Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Serves 4
If you are using thin skinned baby eggplants there is no need to peel them. However, I recommend peeling larger varieties. I used home-grown eggplants from our garden, but decided to peel them - purely for the benefit of getting my children to try this dish. I thought the purple skins might tip them off to the fact that they were indeed eating a vegetable.

1 1/2 pounds eggplant
kosher salt
vegetable oil
flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 a
{28 ounce} can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Remove the stems from the eggplant and slice into thin rounds {about 1/4" thick}. Note: if you're using small eggplants, as I did - you will need to slice the fattest parts into rounds and the thinner sections lengthwise. This makes the size of the eggplant slices more uniform and the frying process less arduous}. Line the inside of a colander with one layer of sliced eggplant and sprinkle with kosher salt. Lay the next layer on top of the first and sprinkle with more salt. Continue this process until all the eggplant is salted. Prop the colander over a bowl and let drain for at least 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant dry before proceeding. {If you go a little overboard with the salt, you can also rinse the salt off and pat dry.}
2. Pour enough oil in a large skillet to fill to a depth of 1". Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place the flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls, or plates. Coat a piece of eggplant in egg, allow the excess to drip off, then coat in the flour. Continue this process, cooking the eggplant in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined platter.
3. Heat the olive oil and chopped tomatoes in a separate skillet over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking dish, or pie plate with butter. Line the bottom of the dish with a single layer of eggplant slices. Spread some of the cooked tomato over the eggplant, followed by a layer of mozzarella and a bit of the basil. Repeat the process, ending with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top, cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Make ahead: This dish can be made several days in advance and stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Click here for the printable recipe.

7 comments:

london bakes said...

This is one of my favourite dishes but one that I rarely make. I'm really going to have to change that because this looks delicious and sounds so simple to make.

Blog is the New Black said...

Wow, this looks like the PERFECT eggplant parm!

Laurie {Simply Scratch} said...

Kate this is the most beautiful thing! I'm the only one in my family that likes it, but I don't even care... I'm making it anyways!

kate said...

Laurie -
This one might convert them...my kids ate it!

charlotte au chocolat said...

This looks gorgeous, Kate!

Joanne said...

See the part that scares me most about eggplant parm is all that frying. I'm okay not knowing how much oil went into it...but to do it myself makes me anxious. I'll just head on over to your place next time you make this...looks amazing!

kate said...

Joanne - I was certainly not counting calories the day we ate this!
Although - you do bring up a point I should have made in the post. For people pan-frying anything, proper oil temperature is tremendously important in regards to how much oil will be soaked up. Have the oil hot. Not so hot you burn the outside and leave the inside raw, but hot enough that it seals the coating and stops soaking excess.
There is also the option of baking the eggplant in something like panko breadcrumbs instead of frying.
Just an FYI for anyone trying to be mindful of that.

Post a Comment