Frying & Baking

 

Recipe 2

Eggplant “Parmesean”

The quotes around “Parmesean” mean that this is my take on what Carm used to sere Tone on the “Sopranos” or was it Chicken Parm?

Because this recipe  requires a basic tomato sauce, we will begin there.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Equipment

  • 1 Stock pot
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 large soup ladle
  • 1 can opener

Ingredients:

4 #10 cans of  whole tomatoes in juice (avoid puree or basil or garlic – just plain tomatoes

4 garlic cloves minced (if garlic cloves are huge m use less — avoid cheap Chinese garlic in mesh bags – buy solid feeling tight individual garlic bulbs)

Regular olive oil (not virgin — it is not meant for frying etc.) to coat the bottom of the pan

2 bay leaves – dried is standard; fresh is unusual but use them if you can.

2 sprigs of Italian parsley minced — about 1/4 cup

Salt and pepper to taste.

Sugar — If the tomatoes are too acidic you may add a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acid.

Preperation

TIP Open the cans of tomatoes leaving a bit of the lid attached.  Drain the juice from the canand reserve in a bowl.  This step avoids having to use a colander to drain the tomatoes.

  • Put the tomatoes in another bowl, Take your electric hand mixer and place it in the bottom of the bowl.  Turn it on and start moving it around slowly chopping the tomatoes into small bits as you do.  Check your progress by turning the mixer off.  You do not want to pulverize all the tomatoes.  You want a mixture of tomato bits and some pulverized flesh.

OOOPS Do not pull any part of the head above the surface of the tomatoes unless you want tomato splattered kitchen!

  • If you do not have the mixer you may use a potato masher and perhaps your scissors to create this tomato mixture.

Continuing

  • Pour the oil into the pot and heat it to a point where a crumb of bread sizzleswhen it is dropped in.
  • When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and stir it around quickly. When it starts to give off an aroma and brown ever so slightly. Carefully ladle some tomatoes into the oil and garlic.  This will stop the garlic from burning.
  • Reduce the heat immediately.  The tomatoes will start “bubbling” but this will lessen with each ladle you pour.

OOOPS.  If you dump tomatoes into the oil they will splatter and your hand could get burned… instant age spots.

  • Keep adding ladles of tomatoes into the pot until you have used about one half of the bowl.  Stir the pot mixing in the garlic/oil.  At this point you may add the bay leaves and parsley.  Finally pour the remaining tomatoes into the pot and stir the contents.
  • Watch the pot and adjust the heat until you have VERY gentle boil– sweet little bubbles  You do not want a witches’ cauldron save that for Macbeth.
  •   If you discover that there are large pieces of tomato in the sauce you can use your hand mixer to break them up — yes it will go into the hot sauce.  Insert it near the bottom of the pan and move it about for a few seconds.  If there are still big pieces you can repeat this action.  As a matter of fact if you want to pulverize the sauce you may do this.  I prefer some bits of tomatos, but you may not.

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  • When your sauce has simmered for about ten minutes, remove some with your spoon, blow on it and taste.  It should have a delicate tomato/garlic flavor.  If it is harshly acidic (meaning you grimace!), add about one half teaspoon of sugar, stir it in, wait and taste it again.  You don’t want a candy taste.  Add a little more sugar if it remains too acidic. Don’t do more than one teaspoon!!!
  • Let the sauce cook about 10 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Don’t go crazy with the pepper and keep sodium low.  If you go overboard you can’t remove the saltiness or the peppery taste
  • Cook the sauce 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Then remove it from the heat and let it rest.  When it has rested you will know if you have used too much olive oil.  It will be floating on the surface of your sauce.  Don’t panic..  Take a tea spoon and skim the excess oil off.

TIP  You can reserve this tomato garlic infused oil and use it for something else — invitation for invention.  Try dipping a nice piece of crusty Italian bread into this oil and tasting it. Does it inspire a  Panache Flash?

TIP You will notice that you have a bowl of tomato juice sitting there.  This can be refrigerated and used as a liquid in rice or braising.  Also,  you may need to thin your sauce during the cooking process if you see that it is getting too thick. You will use the reserved tomato juice to do this.

How do you know if it is too thick?  Think of what bottled sauce ( e.g.Ragu, or Newman’s Best looks like) — that’s what you want.

NOTE.

This is a very basic, simple and flexible tomato sauce.  It is fine as it is over pasta , but its taste can be changed with additions like herbs, shrimp, cooked Italian sausage etc.

Think of it as that Pleaser Friend who will do almost anything to make you happy.

This is NOT gravy nor should you try to pass it off as such unless you want a Sicilian curse on your head.

I will invite Kooking Kweer friends to share gravy recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

EGGPLANT “Parmesean”

I am making this recipe for two — it is easily increased.  In that case you will require a baking dish to cook the Parm.

 

Equipment

 

  • Same ole saute pan with cover
  • Tongs
  • Long handle fork
  • Mixing bowl
  • 1 flat dinner plate
  • 1 quiche dish or pie plate.
  • Cheese grater, preferably the one with the handle. The counter top traditional 4 sided grater is fine.
  • Wooden or metal mixing spoon.
  • Large colander.
  • A small ladle or big metal spoon.
  • Spatula for removing the “parm” from the baking dish
  • A roll of paper towels.

Ingredients

 

1 large eggplant about 1 lb

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

3 large eggs – separate one yolk and reserve the white which will go into the egg dip.

1 ½ cup of shredded whole milk mozzarella (packaged is fine)

1 ½  cup of shredded sharp provolone cheese using the shredder wheel of the grater. Or you can use the traditional stand up grater.  You may also use Asiago cheese.

1 ½ cup pecorino Romano or Locatelli cheese grated. (Parm is way too expensive says the author)

1 can of Italian style bread crumbs — you will not use all the crumbs.

Enough olive oil to fry the eggplant. Triple the “coating” amount you have used in past recipes.

About three cups of the Tomato sauce you have made.  It can be cool.

Preparation

  • Cut the stem end of the eggplant off.  If you want peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler.
  • Stand the eggplant on it’s stem end and with a very sharp chef’s knife or a good serrated bread knife cut a ½ inch slice of eggplant.
  • Lay the eggplant cut side down on your cutting board.  Press the eggplant down with one hand and begin to slice ½ inch pieces starting at the cutting board level.
  • Set aside all the pieces. You may be left with a piece that has skin on one side and flesh on the other — this is fine — or if it bothers you slice the skin off.

You should be able to get 9 slices of eggplant.

You can skip this step if you want.

  • Generously salt both sides of each slice and place it in a colander that you have placed in the sink.  You will leave the eggplant in the colander for about an hour so it can release bitter juices.
  • After an hour rinse off the slices, pat them dry  VERY DRY and pile them on your cutting board.

You are now ready to start the FRYING process.

Egg Dip

 

  • Beat two eggs in a cup and pour them in the quice dish or pie plate.  Add the reserved egg white to this mixture.
  • Pour some bread crumbs in the dinner plate and spread them out.  You should have about ½ inch of crumbs. You may need more.
  • Take a slice of eggplant and place it with your tongs in the egg wash.  Coat both sides, shake off excess egg and put the slice in the bread crumbs.
  • Coat both sides with crumbs and put the slice on your cutting board.

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  • Repeat this process until all your slices are coated with crumbs.
  • Dump what remains of your crumbs in the trash and dump your eggs down the sink.

Reserve the crumb plate for holding the fried eggplant. Place a layer of paper towels on the surface of this plate.

FRYING

  • Pour the oil in the saute pan, heat it and test readiness with the bread crumb.
  • Using your tongs gently lower a slice of eggplant into the oil. Repeat this until you have uncrowded slices frying in the pan — probably three slices.
  • Watch the pieces.  Use your thongs to lift them out of the oil so you can see the color of the flesh.  Ideally you want a golden brown, not charred color.  When this is achieved, turn the eggplant over and fry the other side.

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  • Fry all the eggplant slices in this manner.
  • You may have to add more oil during this process.
  • When you remove each slice from the pan, place it on a paper towel on the plate.  You will layer slices separated by paper towels.

I will assume or pray that you have about 9 slices

  • Allow the oil to cool in the pan.  Pour the excess oil in a jar with a lid– it will be discarded when cool enough to handle.
  • Wipe out the saute pan with paper towels.  It is fine if there are some fried eggplant bits and a film of oil in the pan.

Layering & Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix the ricotta with one egg in a small bowl. It should be thick and creamy.
  • Combine the shredded mozzarella and sharp provolone in a small bowl.
  • Have the sauce and ladle nearby.
  • Place three pieces of sliced eggplant in the saute pan.

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  •  “Butter” each piece with tomato sauce – a think coating is fine.
  •  Spoon three dollops of the ricotta mixture on each piece and sprinkle your mixture of  pecorino etc. between each dollop.  A dollop is about a scant tablespoon.

Your goal is to use all the ricotta and mixed cheeses in creating these two layers.  If you have leftovers mix all the cheeses together and refrigerate them in a plastic container.

  •  Create another layer of eggplant slices sauce and cheeses and cover it with your last eggplant slices.
  •  Put a generous coating of sauce on the top of this last slice.
  •  Sprinkle a generous amount of your grated cheese on top of this final layer.
  • Cover the pan and place it in the preheated oven.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes — You may check at 20 minutes.  The sauce which has seeped around the layered eggplant should be bubbling.
  • When done remove from the oven and uncover.
  • Let the eggplant rest for about 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

 

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  • Remove the eggplant with a spatula and place it on a plate.   You may saute some broccoli rabe or chard and  serve it with the eggplant.  The metallic bitterness of the greens is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the eggplant.

PANACHE FLASH   If there are juices remaining in the pan, you may pour these into a container and refrigerate.  Allow the juices to cool. Taste and determine if you think they have another use.  A pasta sauce?  Toss them if you are not inspired.

Clearly this is a very rich dish.  A tossed green salad without tomatoes and some great crusty bread would be a perfect meal.

Cold “Eggplant Parm” makes a wonderful sandwich.

“Parm” is also great on an antipasto plate cut into smaller segments and served with warm or room temperature grilled vegetables like asparagus and peppers.

In summer I like to sprinkle a chiffonade* of fresh basil on the “Parm” . This is an homage  of sorts to sliced tomato, mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil that so many of us love.

  •  A Chiffonade is created by rolling up a few Basil  leaves then slicing them with a scissor so that ribbons of green are created.   You can do this with lettuce leaves, spinach, chard,  kale etc.