Monday, February 1, 2010

Recipes to Rival: Eggplant Parmesan

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For January, our Recipes to Rival recipe was Eggplant Parmesan. I have to admit, I wasn't terribly excited about this challenge. Eggplant has never been one of my favorite vegetables. I remember as a kid I would actively avoid eating it when it was served. At the time, I had not actually tried it. It just looked weird and there was no way I was going to eat it. Period. Don't even think about it. Serve me some zucchini instead.

All these years later and I've still managed to avoid eating it. As an adult I am able to make the choices on what I eat and eggplant has not been on my list of things to eat. So as you can probably tell...I really thought about if I wanted to make eggplant parmesan. Should I let go of my childhood dislike of the vegetable? Or should I buck up and be an adult and try it? Well...I decided to try it obviously.

I picked up a nice size eggplant at Central Market. At least I think it was a nice size. I have no experience picking out eggplant after all. While I was there, I also got a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella. I could eat that stuff all day. Seriously. All day.

This was a fairly easy dish to make. Once the sauce is made and the eggplant salted, all you have to do is bread and fry the eggplant. I had one issue in frying the eggplant. I thought my pan was hot enough but when all the oil was quickly sucked up by the eggplant. Ummm...oops! There wasn't much I could do with it at that point because I had only bought one. I finished frying it as much as I could and then stacked the eggplant with the fresh mozzarella and the sauce. Into the oven it went until it was bubbly!

Eggplant Parmesan

And when I pulled it out of the oven, one of the eggplant stacks was gracefully sliding down puddles of mozzarella and sauce while the other was leaning like the Tower at Pisa. Uhhh...I don't think that was supposed to happen. I was able to make the leaning stack straighten up and the other was just beyond repair.

Eggplant Parmesan

Despite my oops moments and prior eggplant dislike, the eggplant parmesan wasn't that bad. The mozzarella and the sauce were the highlight for me. The eggplant was a little greasy because of the oil soak up and the skin was a little tough. The flesh was nice especially with the breading. Would I make it again? Probably not. I'm still not a huge fan of eggplant. But it wasn nice to try something new and especially something I didn't think I'd like.

To see more eggplant parmesan, check out the Recipes to Rival blogroll.

Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali

Ingredients
•2 pounds (about 2 medium-sized) eggplant
•Salt
•4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
•1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
•2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
•1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
•1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.

In a sauté pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Press the drained eggplant pieces into the seasoned bread crumb mixture and sauté until light golden brown on both sides. Repeat with all of the pieces. On a cookie sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes
Salt

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Tips:

Fresh bread crumbs are required for the coating to stick without an egg wash.
The oil must be HOT HOT HOT or the eggplant will not cook fast enough and will be a greasy soggy mess.
The Mozzarella must be very thinly sliced or the eggplant tower will slide (it will still taste great)

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3 Treats for Charlie:

Chow and Chatter said...

oh looks great and your breads are perfect great job

Claudia said...

I had the same experience with mine. It sucked up way too much oil. Lately I've been roasting my eggplant first with just a light brush of olive oil, and it works fine. So, maybe try again, and also you can peel them.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Eggplants are known oil hogs. :)
They look great! I think they are more interesting when they lean a little.
Delicious job!

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