Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

One of my absolute favorite meals is homemade eggplant parmesan. This recipe is a culmination of many good ones that I've made over the years and perfected into one really great recipe. This is also a particular dish where everything is made from scratch, and it does take all day. Perfect for a Sunday dinner.

I start with the marinara sauce. For this, I use special San Marzano tomatoes. I don't really want to write about the history of San Marzano tomatoes, but please do go check out this link if you have time! They make a huge difference in the sauce and have an amazing flavor. They are about $5.75 for a can, but they are so deliciously sweet and will make the most incredible sauce you can imagine. I'd make cans of it if it weren't so expensive. This is not the product you want to skimp on!

Marinara Sauce:

1 large can authentic San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes
4-6 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt

Put this on the stove and let simmer for at least two hours. The tomatoes will just melt and become a delicious sauce. You can also use a hand blender and blend it all together.

While the sauce is cooking, slice up your eggplant. I always get two, and it always seems like too much. One and a half eggplant is perfect. Eggplant can have a bitter taste if you don't cook it properly. One way to "sweat" that bitter taste out is to extract some of the water by placing the eggplant on a paper towel and sprinkling with Kosher salt. Let it sit for at least half an hour, and then repeat on the other side. You will see a lot of the moisture come out in this process. You do not want to skip this step, trust me!

Eggplant Parmesan:

1 1/2 large eggplants
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs, seasoned with garlic powder and dried oregano
1 ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Sauce from marinara recipe above
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Once you've let the eggplant "sweat", and let the magic happen with the sauce, it's time to fry up the eggplant and assemble your masterpiece. First, I take each piece of eggplant, dip it in egg, then dredge in the flour, then egg again, then breadcrumbs. You want to be careful not to touch the raw egg. Use tongs for this. It makes the cleanup much simpler, anyway. I then cook each piece in a nonstick pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I don't necessarily want to cook the eggplant, just brown and crisp up the coating. Let fry on each side about 1-2 minutes, on a medium-high heat.

 Once you've completed this with each piece, it's time to bring it all together. I slice up some of the mozzarella cheese pretty thin. This is for the inside layers, so you get a little cheese in every bite. I start with the sauce on the bottom, then a layer of eggplant, then mozzarella cheese, a little Parmesan, and more sauce. I really like a saucy dish, so I add a lot to each layer. Repeat each layer until you reach the top of your casserole pan. I save the thicker slices of cheese for the top, cover those in the remaining sauce, and top with Parmesan.   Bake at 350 until gold and bubbly, usually 45 minutes.  Serve this with a salad, crusty artisan bread and a glass of red wine. Absolutely amazing dish, made from the very best!

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