Monday, March 23, 2015

Eggplant Parmesan - Food Bucket List #11

Eggplant slices ready for the bake
I LOVE Eggplant Parm.... LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  I am not, however, a big fan of how some people make it nor how much work it is to make.  But if I want to avoid greasy, bland Eggplant, then I have to do it myself, as they say.  What do I mean by Food Bucket list?  Well, when we were little kids like 10 years old, we used to play, 'what would your last meal be'?  I know that sounds morbid and I truly don't remember where we even came to know what that meant.  I am fairly certain it wasn't due to anything worth reporting to the Censor because my mother, to this day, won't watch anything too violent or too elicit.  It was probably a soap opera where some forlorn, ridiculously chiselled, leading actor was locked up for something his evil twin did.  Anyhoo, whatever the origins we were fairly young when we started our Food Bucket List.  What are the parameters exactly, should you wish to develop one? Well, a Food Bucket List is similar to a life bucket list with a twist.  What food / dish would you request should you find yourself being asked to order your last meal OR would you be willing to eat in perpetuity and nothing else OR if presented with a menu with the item on it, you will not bother to read the rest of the menu and will order it OR you will go at least 5 km out of your way to have it when in the vicinity of a good representation of it when out of town.  Tira Misu is an example of the application of the third category.  Even if I'm not in the mood for dessert, I will order it if it is on the menu.

The 11th position does vary from year to year but Eggplant Parmesan, the casserole or sandwich version, has had a place on my list since I first tasted it. If I see it on a menu, I get it and unfortunately, it is more often than not, terribly done.  It's actually not that often which is also unfortunate but when it is, I have found it is usually bland, done well in advance so mushy, poorly breaded, under cooked, over cooked or all of the above.  One of my favourite sandwich versions was served at the family joint #Amelio's in Montreal but they recently closed. *sigh* Also unfortunate, Eggplant Parm is also not a quickie quickie dish to make.  It's one of 'those' dishes that requires cooking before cooking.  The key to making it as painless as possible is to be organised and use a recipe you trust because instructions and measurements aren't vague.   This is one such recipe.  It is adapted from a recipe from a Bobby Flay episode of Throwdown.  I liked it because of a few reasons, mainly the deep fryer and peeling the eggplant.  Sometimes when an Eggplant Parm is not properly cooked, you'll get a slimey ring of peel in your mouth like when an Onion slithers out of an Onion ring.  You will love this dish and you will add it to your Food Bucket list.

Eggplant Parmesan fresh from the oven
Eggplant Parmesan
  • You will need a Deep Fryer.  I cannot guarantee the results if you pan fry like in other recipes.
  • You will need a Deep Lasagna pan.  Ours is 10x13", fairly standard.
  • 2 large sheet pans lined with newspaper and topped with paper towelling (or lined with a wire rack)
  • 3 shallow mixing bowls, I use metal ones I got in Chinatown.  Wide shallow soup bowls will do.
  • 1 large mixing or salad bowl
  • Metal tongs

Do not preheat anything now,  I'm just letting you know for reference. I'll tell you when.  
Oil 350 F
Oven 375 F

1 large Eggplant (approx 12")
4-5 c Bread crumbs (1/2 stale Italian loaf) (do NOT use panko.)
3 Eggs, large
1 T Water
1 c Flour
1/2 T Basil, dried
1/2 T Oregano, dried
1/2 T Rosemary, dried
1 t Granulated Garlic
2 jars Tomato Sauce (your favourite Marinara sauce that you would eat on its own)
1 lb Mozzarella, shredded
1/2 c Parmesan, grated

Take your stale Italian loaf torn up and toss into your food processor.  Don't over fill.  You may need to do 2-3 batches.  Pulse until crumbed. Do not let just run because if there is any moisture left in your bread, you risk just getting a big doughball.   Once all crumbed up, bring all the Breadcrumbs back together in a large bowl.  Toss in all the dried Herbs and granulated Garlic.  If your dried Rosemary is still in full leaf form, you may want to pulse a couple of times to break it down.

IF you choose the path of lesser resistance and buy your Breadcrumbs, just toss in the herbs and don't sweat the whole processor thing.  Pour some of the breadcrumbs into one of the shallow bowls, half way.  Set the others aside.

Grate the Cheese, a whole 1lb block OR just buy it grated and save yourself the aggravation.

In the second shallow mixing bowl, beat the 3 Eggs and fill one of the half Egg shells with Water and add to the Eggs.  Beat Well. Set aside.

In the third bowl, place the flour.  Set aside.

Peel the Eggplant and cut the calix off (stem) using a Vegetable peeler.  A T-shaped one is best for this and not the straight handled one.  Cut into 1/2 - 3/4 cm or half inch slices.

On your counter, in front of you place the 3 bowls in this order: Flour, Egg, Breadcrumbs.  Behind the bowls further away from you place a large cutting board with the Eggplant slices set to Left side.  Sound crazy?  Nope, this will help you avoid the dough club-hand and keep thing running smoothly.  Only let your left hand go in the Egg.

Now, you can preheat the deep fryer to 350F now if you plan to start frying while still breading, BUT I wouldn't recommend you do this on your first try unless you're confident about your timing and coordination :D.

Let's go.

Place a couple slices of Eggplant in the flour with your RIGHT hand.  Cover and rub it in.  Flip and repeat.  Then bounce it around to dust it off.  This is important or the breading will just fall off.  Place in the Egg.  With your LEFT hand, flip it and coat it and try to handle with the edges but don't worry too much.  Pick it up and place it in the Bread Crumbs.  With the RIGHT hand,  cover the slices with Breadcrumbs and push down slightly.  Flip and repeat until the whole thing is coated.  Bounce and shake off excess Breadcrumbs because they'll just fall off and burn in the fryer.  Place flat on the left side of the cutting board.  Continue to bread all the slices.  Now your cutting board may fill up so you can stack if you want but try to stack off set and not in direct piles.

Now most home deep fryers are not as big as restaurant ones so you will likely only be able to fit 2 slices in at a time.  Gently place one slice in and shove the first one over and lay the second over.  You can try make sure you're always frying one of the bigger middle slices with a smaller end slice so you'll have room.  Fry for 1 minute then, with the metal thongs, carefully turn over in the oil and fry for another minute.  If you've left the basket in, you can lift the two out together and shake off the excess oil.  Or you can use the thongs.  Place to drain on the two baking sheets you've laid out and lined.  Continue until all the slices are done.  You can lightly season with Salt, LIGHTLY, while they're still warm.  Don't over salt because jarred sauce and the cheese will also add salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 with the rack in the middle.

Pour a thin layer of sauce to just cover the bottom of the Lasagna pan.  Layer in the Eggplant.  Our pan was two across and 3 along.  Cover with thin layer of sauce, Mozza and Parmesan cheeses.  Continue until all slices are used up.  Mine had 3 full layers and most of a 4th.  Cover with Sauce, Toss the remaining Cheeses with the remaining Breadcrumbs.  Place over the top of the dish.  Cover LOOSELY with foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 until the sauce is bubbling but the topping is not too brown.

Let stand for 10-15 minutes and slice and eat..... or right away.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hogtown Cafe - this Place will NOT help the Vegan movement

Dry Dry Unchicken and Floppy Waffles
I first heard of this place on the TV show You Gotta Eat Here!  I've found the places recommended on that show to be VERY hit or miss.  When we lived on the west coast, we used to visit a lot of places on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and for the most part, the places lived up to the hype.  The show tries to find places that go out of their way cook real food despite outward appearances.  Whereas, I think, You Gotta Eat Here! is largely based on visitor reccos.  Well, I visited and I would not recco.  I specifically even tried the dishes they covered on the show and feel like the show was describing another restaurant.

I got the unChicken and Waffles and lil T got the Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast w Fake-on.  D had hoped he could order the Philly Cheese 'Steak' from the lunch menu but they won't serve anything but the brunch menu during brunch so he, reluctantly order the BLT.  It was difficult enough trying to get him to go to a Vegan restaurant so he wasn't a happy bunny when he couldn't have the dish he thought he was willing to try from the show.

Service was PAINFULLY slow.  They were very friendly and nice when we saw them but that was like never.  We waited well into 'lunch' for our order.  There was a lady sitting next to us who was a tourist who had come because of the show too.  She heard lil T complaining for his food and she had ordered the PBnB French Toast as well and hadn't touched half and offered it to us for lil T.  Since we had waited for ever and she seemed okay, we took it.  He was well into his brunch before our actual food even arrived.

The Fake-on or fake Bacon was like plastic.  Yes yes, carnivores, are rolling their eyes and shaking their head saying 'duh', it's fake on.  But I've had decent faux Bacon and this was NOT it.  Lil T loves bacon and bacony things and he spat this out.  It was worse than jerky.  The portions are huge but in a bad way.  The bread on the French Toast was very very thick and not well soaked and the fresh natural Peanut Butter was laid on thicker than plaster.  We will be scraping from the roof of our mouths for days.  We all tried and barely at a third of it and the extra the nice lady offered T.  The unChicken and Waffles were not enjoyable either.  That said, the Potatoes that came on the side were quite tasty. Again, I can hear the likes of D moaning. What were you thinking Vegan.  I like Vegan food.  Though I will admit, I prefer Vegan food that doesn't try to be fake something else.  Anyhoo.  The Waffles were doughy, rubbery and bland.  The unChicken was tough and also BLAND!  D's BLT would have been somewhat okay if not for the aforementioned Fake-on.  Again, with the bread cut slightly too thick, it was too dry and tough.  The side salad was uneventful premixed greens.

Thick, pasty, dry PBnB French Toast
The place itself is like a dive which I'm not fussed about if you can bring the goods with the food.  This place did not.  The service was excruciatingly slow so if you have kids, do not come here.  Or if you value your weekends, do not come here.  The staff was friendly and nice but it didn't redeem how long we waited for our food.  Oh side note,  I know it goes without saying that a Vegan place had no milk for lil T but they didn't even have any Soy as beverage.  Plan ahead.

Food: Bland, flavourless and well, bad. (and I love Vegan/Vegetarian food)
Ambiance: Dive

Hogtown Vegan
Dufferin Grove
1056 Bloor St W
 Toronto, ON M6H1M3

The Hogtown Vegan on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Odd Oddseoul

Overdressed, scarcely any Avocado having Avocado Salad
My cousin had a big birthday at a burlesque bar in the Ossington area aka #Hipster mecca and so my other cousin H and I took advantage of the opportunity to go eat out without the kids.  Oh you thought I'd let the burlesque thing slide?  No, that is accurate.  Birthday drinks after dinner was at the Painted Lady and it got burlesque but with less Cher and no singing.  Just a pasty young lady stripping down to her pasties on the bar.  Still the music was good and the bar service quick.  Anyhoo, I'd been meaning to try Odd Seoul on Ossington for over a year.  I'd heard good things about the Korean fusion place.  I mean, I'm all for the mainstreaming of my own 'soul' food.

I have to say, I was generally disappointed.

The place is very small and they don't take reservations so go when you're not in a rush and never in a large group.  Cuz H knew this so she went ahead by 15 to grab us a table.  Love her!  We were seated at a tiny little two top and served by a bearded white hipster with an indiscernible  accent.  It was rather loud in there so a ridiculous sequence of shouting and repeating transpired for our whole meal. We ordered a bunch of stuff but I could  not order a stone bowl since there were not vegetarian or seafood options.  And I absolutely could not pay over 20 bucks for a small bowl of Japchae.  My mom would have disowned me.  It was rather amusing to have the ...i want to say kiwi waiter but again his accent was just unplacable, try to describe to us what Japchae was when I said 'WHAT?!' because he pronounced it CHAAP-CHAI.

We ordered the Buffalo Tofu, Torched Mackerel, Spicey Scallian and Avocado Slaw, Tempura Prawn and O.S. Wings.  We also ordered a bottle of Cucumber Soju.  The Soju was lovely.  Lightly perfumed with Cucumber and not to big a punch.

The Slaw was a rather mundane.  It was over dressed and there was scarcely any Avocado which is really taking the piss since the ingredient is listed in the NAME! The Torched Mackerel was nice, though the portion a bit laughable for a Korean table.  The Korean's have a tradition much like the Portuguese, that pride themselves in a bountiful table.  This portion of Mackerel was slightly bigger than one sashimi portion of Mackerel, sliced and torched at the table.  It is a oily fish but the fine slicing and the dipping sauce were nice.

Tiny Portion of Torched Mackerel
The Tempura Prawn were in short disgusting.  If it were a shared plate where everyone got barely 1, maybe it would have been tolerable.  But sharing this dish with two people or having the dish to yourself will leave you feeling heavy.  The Prawn are coated in a very heavy pancakey batter which is doused in a strange mayonnaisey sauce.

Smothered, mayonaissey mess of Tempura Prawn
Then came the Buffalo Tofu.  Even worse than the prawn.  The Tofu came in domino sized pieces.  They are deep fried so that the centre is all but obliterated and hollow.  What is left is this tough shell that is coated in a terrible vinegary, sugary batter.  The after taste will haunt me for months to come.

Disgusting Buffalo Tofu - Vinegary Oddness
The wings were all for H.  They were dark and looked over cooked.  They were very dry and she ate less than half the plate.

Overall, I found the service negligible and haughty.  Though we tipped the standard expected even though the attention was lacking, he was visibly displeased and made no effort to conceal that he expected more.  It was very very loud and you have to shout to be heard across even small tables.  Though we enjoyed our house made Soju, we did not enjoy the food.  I would not recommend you eat here EVER.  If you fancy Korean food, go to Christie or ask me where you can get decent homemade Bibimbap or Japchae without being gouged by hipster prices or attitudes.  I hate when place guise traditional food as 'fusion' or 'modern' but it isn't really and thus justify over pricing or just bad flavours.

90 Ossington Ave
 Toronto, ON M6J2Y7

Oddseoul on Urbanspoon