Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hot And Humid, With A 50% Chance of Showers... Eggplant Parmigiana

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As I told you in the last two posts, I am still not in the mood for Fall cooking.  Not with this weather. Can you believe I am still wearing shorts and a t-shirt?

What I am doing is taking advantage of the last of the summer crop and buying what looks best on the shelves at the supermarket.  Eggplants caught my eyes last week and, with my daughter gone for a short trip out of town, it was the perfect opportunity to sneak some in the house.  She hates eggplant,.. something about the texture, but Madame Mere and I love it and Eggplant Parmesan is one of our favorite meals.

When I first started this blog over five years ago, one of the first recipes I posted was for this iconic Italian dish.  The recipe was Mario Battali's and the time of the year was Spring.  Goes to show you the difference and the advantages of living in a zone where you can grow things twelve months out of a year.  Here,  it is not until mid July that you can start seeing those plum and fat eggplants or aubergines, as some folks like to call them.

I came home with one medium eggplant, enough for the two of us.  That is really all you need, aside from a crusty baguette and a nice bottle of wine.

This time I used Lidia Bastianich's recipe.  Her addition of basil leaves in between the layers sounded heavenly and it was.  I know people squirm when they have to fry the eggplant and some prefer to bake it to avoid the mess of frying.  I am a purist when it comes to cooking iconic recipes like this and prefer to make them the way they are supposed to be made . I have yet to see a good Italian cook bake instead of fry the eggplant before assembling in a casserole dish.  Besides, once you layer and cover it with tomato sauce and mozzarella it is going to lose its crispiness especially after baking it covered for over 30 minutes.  So put baked eggplant out of your mind and follow the recipe the way it should be.




One of the real drawbacks of this dish is cleaning the dirty pan in which it bakes.  There's no way to avoid it or even make it look pretty for a blog photo.  I take off my hat to those who can. Soak it in dish washing soap overnight.  The next day clean the pan as much as you can and then sprinkle some Bartender's Helper over the bottom and sides and let it sit for a bit.  Clean with a soft pad and rinse. Repeat if needed. That should do it. Do not use a Brillo pad or it will scratch your dish.







Although this recipe is for six, you can adapt it depending how many people you want to serve. You need to figure on three 1/4 inch eggplant slices per person, at least.  So look at the size of  your eggplants, figure accordingly, and make an extra couple of stalks in case someone wants seconds. Also remember, this dish does not need to swim in tomato sauce.  If you have some saved in the freezer, it should take no time.  If not, the recipe I use, also from Lidia Bastianich, takes only 25 minutes to make.







Ingredients:

3 medium eggplants, (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon sea salt, or kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
freshly ground pepper
½ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
½ cup olive oil, or as needed
Tomato sauce
2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese or imported Fontina cheese, cut into slices 1/3-inch thick
12 fresh basil leaves


Serves 6

Directions:

Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1-inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into1/2-inch thick slices and place them in a colander. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly and pat dry. 

Whisk the eggs and 1 teaspoon salt together in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan or wide, shallow bowl. Spread the flour and breadcrumbs in an even layer in two separate wide, shallow bowls or over sheets of wax paper. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly. Let excess egg drip back into the pan, then lay the eggplant in the pan of breadcrumbs. Turn to coat both sides well with breadcrumbs, pressing with your hands until the breadcrumbs adhere well to the eggplant.

Pour 1/2 cup each of the olive and vegetable oils into a medium skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until a corner of one of the eggplant slices gives off a lively sizzle when dipped into the oil. Add as many of the eggplant slices as fit without touching and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove the eggplant to a baking pan lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. Adjust the heat as the eggplant cooks to prevent the bits of coating that fall off the eggplant slices from burning. Add oil to the pan as necessary during cooking to keep the level more or less the same.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the tomato sauce to simmering, if necessary, in a small saucepan over medium heat. Ladle enough sauce into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish to cover the bottom. Sprinkle with an even layer of grated cheese and top with a layer of fried eggplant, pressing it down gently. Tear a few leaves of basil over the eggplant and ladle about 3/4 cup of the sauce to coat the top evenly. Sprinkle an even layer of grated cheese over the sauce and top with a layer of mozzarella or Fontina, using about one-third of the cheese. Repeat the layering as described above two more times, ending with a top layer of cheese that leaves a border of about one inch around the edges of the baking dish. Drizzle sauce around the border of the baking dish and sprinkle the top layer with the remaining grated cheese. Finish with a few decorative streaks or rounds of tomato sauce. Cover the baking dish loosely with aluminum foil and poke several holes in the foil with the tip of a knife. Bake 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until the top layer of cheese is golden in spots, about 15 minutes. Let rest 10 to 20 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.


Recipe Lidia Bastianich
Photos Lindaraxa

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10 comments:

  1. Looks good and I will have to try this next time I find eggplants at the Farmer's market. One of my favorite dishes is Ina Gartens eggplant gratin. It is baked, not battered and I feel it is a bit healthier! (LOL!)

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    Replies
    1. Martha, I had never seen that recipe. thanks I love gratins...but LOL is right!

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  2. Your pretty eggplant dish makes me want to embrace eggplant but there's not much chance in this house as my husband doesn't like it. Probably the same reasons your daughter doesn't. But I know someone it's perfect for - his brother who loves eggplant and has a couple of different varieties of growing in his garden. He also adores Lidia, Maybe I could prepare this for him and my husband would have to go along with the idea. Sneaky :)
    Sam

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  3. Sneaky? You are talking to the queen of sneaky...The things I sneak into this house. What I do sometimes, for her, is make some plain spaghetti. That way she can have some of the eggplant as a topping so to speak and fill up with the pasta, extra sauce and cheese. It works.

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  4. Thank you for this recipe, which I shall be making this weekend. I had the worst disaster of my cooking life last weekend. I came home from the farmers' market with some Japanese eggplant, something I've not purchased in years, with the intention of slicing it into rounds and baking it with olive oil and a little garlic. I forgot it in the oven and remembered it only when the inevitable burning smell filled the house. Horror of horrors it looked like medallions of charcoal! I had not accounted for the fact that Japanese eggplant cooks a lot quicker (due to its diminutive size) than the regular orbs I buy. Tut, tut!

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    Replies
    1. I hate to tell you but the older you get the more things like this will happen...My last disaster was meringues which bake on low for a long time. Had set the timer then decided they needed more time but forgot to set the timer. No need to describe the results. It's maddening, I know but stuff happens. Yesterday just posting this recipe and looking at the photos made me want to make it again. it is good....

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  5. I have never tried Lidia's recipe but it is a little different from the way I usually make it. My husband dearly loves eggplant so I will be making this for him in the coming week. I too like the idea of nestling basil between each layer and I have lots of basil this year. I can't believe I have never tried this variation since I am a HUGE fan of Lidia's. I have made Ina's and do believe it is healthier with out the frying, some things just beg to be fried and this is one of them. So glad you posted this.

    Carolyn

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    Replies
    1. Ha, there you are. Couldn't get you with the old link. Have just corrected in the favorites.

      I used to make Mario's but was too lazy to go get the book upstairs so I tried Lidia's and it is great. Love the addition of the basil. I guess Mario will be staying on the shelves from now on. glad to see you.

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  6. I dropped by to let you know that this recipe was a huge hit at last night's dinner. We sat out on our balcony in the late afternoon sun, and enjoyed it with a bottle of wine, a tomato salad, and some green and yellow wax beans. A toast, of course, was made in your honor! Thank you for sharing the recipe for best eggplant parmigiana I have ever tasted.

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    Replies
    1. I love it when people write back that they have made a recipe and enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know.

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