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.


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