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Flavorful Fridays: Eggplant Parmesan

March 19, 2010

At our annual family reunion a couple years back, I made my way down the table of delicious, homemade Italian delicacies. Glancing at a dish I recognized as belonging to my Nonna, I assumed it was lasagna (it was after all the dish she always used for lasagna), so I took a piece eager to enjoy my portion of Nonna’s lasagna. My first bite was a bitter disappointment. Instead of melt-in-your-mouth, homemade pasta lasagna, I got limp eggplant smothered in cheese. Please don’t misunderstand me, there was nothing lacking in my Nonna’s cooking; there was, however, a lack of expectations being met on my part. I decided I didn’t like, mostly because it was not what I was expecting out of that first bite. I think I ended up slipping the rest to my cousin to finish for me.

Fast forward to now: Several of my friends have been talking about eggplant Parmesan, and when I found Marcella’s recipe, I decided I ought to give it another try. I sweated the eggplant, coated it in flour, and fried it. Oh, and, I almost burned down our apartment building in the process.

As I sometimes do, I got ahead of myself and wasn’t paying attention to the hot oil popping and snapping on my stove top. I dropped the covered eggplant in and turned my back on the stove. The next thing I know, smoke has completely filled the entire kitchen (not that it takes much) and our smoke detector is wailing like there’s no tomorrow (at least we know our smoke detector works now). So, I pull the pan off the burner and rush to fling open our balcony door to get air circulating into our kitchen. Once I establish that no major damage had been done to our home, our stove, or our pan, I behold the charcoal that is floating atop the still crackling oil. Well, that batch of eggplant is shot. I clean out the pan and start over, this time diligently hovering over the pan to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or the eggplant left in too long.

I had hoped to have a beautiful Eggplant Parmesan in the oven when Will got home, instead, he was welcomed by a smokey kitchen and a distraught wife. I was contemplating dumping the whole thing and ordering pizza when he walked in the door. Wonderful husband that he is, he encouraged me to finish the dish. I promised to order him the pizza if it turned out a complete mess. Somehow, I managed to avoid burning the rest of the eggplant, and I assembled the dish and put it in the oven. That first bite made the mess of making it melt away. For two people who don’t normally like eggplant, Will and I both enjoyed our dinner. The fried eggplant was delicious paired with the tomato and cheese. And the best part was that we didn’t end up needing to order the pizza after all.

Eggplant Parmesan

From Marcella Hazan’s Essential of Classic Italian Cooking

Ingredients:

3 pounds eggplant

Vegetable oil

Flour

2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, well drained and chopped coarse

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt

3/4 pound fresh mozzarella

8 to 10 fresh basil leaves

Butter

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Slice the eggplant and steep it in salt for 30 minutes.

In a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1-1/2 inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to high. When you have dried the eggplant thoroughly with paper towels, dredge the slices in the flour, coating them on both sides. Do only a few slices at a time at the moment you are ready to fry them, otherwise the flour coating will become soggy. After coating with flour, fry the eggplant.

Put the tomatoes and olive oil in another skillet, turn the heat on to medium high, add salt, stir, and cook the tomato down until it is reduced by half.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the mozzarella into the thinnest possible slices. Wash the basil, and tear each leaf into two or more pieces.

Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter. Put in enough fried eggplant slices to line the bottom of the dish in a single layer, spread some of the cooked tomato over them, cover with a layer of mozzarella, sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan, distribute a few pieces of basil over it, and top with another layer of fried eggplant. Repeat the procedure, ending with a layer of eggplant on top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven.

Occasionally eggplant Parmesan throws off more liquid as it bakes than you want in the pan. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered eggplant with the back of a spoon, and draw off any excess liquid you may find. Cook for another 15 minutes, and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table. Serve and enjoy!

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One Comment leave one →
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