I mentioned in my first post that the dishes I cook are typically void of any regional scope. I get a little overzealous too often and end up saturating my creations with whatever spices I arbitrarily pour. This usually results in an awesome dish or some nasty agita. Sometimes I go a little overboard and for the next few days I'm belching fire and/or sitting down very slowly. Luckily for you, me, and everybody else within smelling distance, this is not one of those dishes.
Let me tell you how much I love eggplant by first telling you how much I hated eggplant when I was a child. I hated eggplant when I was a child. There, I told you. Why I hated it was just sheer ignorance. I hated a lot of food growing up for no other reason then it either looked nasty or had a nasty sounding name. Being the dumb little turd I was, I equated eggplant with eggs. I seriously thought eggs were in Eggplant Parmesan. I suppose you do technically use eggs, but this type of idiocy was on another level. After a while the part of my brain that handles reason started working and I realized Eggplant Parm is not a bunch of purple eggs under a layer of breadcrumbs, sauce, and melted cheese. That does sound pretty bomb though. Maybe next time.
Ingredients for Eggplant:
2 good sized Italian Eggplants... don't skimp you jabroni.
whole mess of olive oil
Ingredients for Sauce:
1 large onion
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 cans crushed tomatoes
7-10 basil leaves
some fresh parsley
2 tablespoons of olive oil
This recipe calls for making a nice homemade sauce prior to breading and frying the eggplant. Using instant sauce is blasphemous and will land you on my shit list. It's good to let the sauce cook for a long duration, as it will become more flavorful over time. The very first thing you need to do is peel and slice the eggplant. I prefer peeling stripes into the eggplant, leaving half the skin on. My grandmother showed me this one day and I copied the hell out of it, but I don't think she knows what the Internet is so I'm in the clear. Also, if you do it right it makes the sliced pieces take on an almost square shape which fit nicely together in the casserole dish.
Once you have a nice striped pattern on your eggplant and you're feeling like a real boss, it's time to slice it. From reading many different recipes online, the consensus seems to be 1/4 inch, but I usually try to go a little thinner than that. It generally yields more slices filling the casserole pan to the top.
Now that the eggplant is all sliced up real good we need to drain it. The water inside of the eggplant has a bitter taste to it, especially if you have had the eggplant lying around for a while before cooking it. Hey, it happens... I'm not being judgmental. To drain, I layer a colander with the eggplant and salt both sides, continuing to layer the eggplant on top of itself and salting. Go crazy with the salt, we're going to rinse it off afterwards so just have fun with it!
The slices are draining, lets get going on that sauce. Chop the onion and try to stay consistent with the pieces. Little pieces burn quickly and give off a foul taste.
Pour some olive oil into a pot or deep pan that has a cover. Remember, we're pouring in 2 cans of tomatoes so nothing too shallow. Throw the burner on medium heat and give it about 5 minutes. Toss the chopped onions in and give it a good stir.
Afterwards mince up the garlic cloves. The onions usually take 7-10 minutes, but you want them translucent and soft. Toss the minced garlic in and give it a good stir. If your garlic is minced microscopically you only need half a minute. If it's minced a little more coarsely you can continue for a minute or two.
The paste goes in next. Get a spoon, it's going to be viscous. Stir Stir Stir until the oil, onions/garlic and paste are all one big happy family. And then drown that family with a cup of water. Damn, what's wrong with me? Stir a little more until it's an even consistency.
Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes and stir some more. I leave the heat at medium, or maybe juice it up a little bit to get the sauce bubbling. Keep a close eye though, it likes to go from placid to spitting all over your stove within seconds.
Once it's bubbling, drop the heat to as low as possible, give a good stir and let it simmer. This is when I add my seasonings and herbs. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Chop up the basil leaves and parsley and throw it in. Stir it up once again and leave the cover slightly ajar at low heat. The longer this bad-boy simmers the better the sauce will taste.
OK, now that the sauce is cooking and you're probably covered in little specks of red, it's time to handle the eggplant. First, preheat the oven to 350°. After that, run each slice of eggplant under cold water to clear off any excess salt and bitterness. Pat each slice dry with paper-towels...
Now we want to set up three bowls in a row. First bowl contains the flour, second bowl contains the beaten eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs. If you would like to coat ALL pieces prior to cooking them that's fine. Just grab a big plate or serving dish. If you feel like a hero you can get the oil going right away and fry them as you coat them. This makes it go a little quicker and saves you from washing another dish. Yes, I still have to wash my individual dishes like a barbarian.
Now I like to use a cast iron pan, but any pan will do. I don't really measure how much oil I pour into the pan. More than likely you will have to pour more in before you're done, otherwise things will get a little smokey.
The eggplant only needs about a minute on each side. We're not cooking technically, just getting the breadcrumbs to stick and crisp up. When they are done on both sides move to a dish with paper towels and pat off any excess oil.
Once all the pieces have had their turn in the pan, you're going to get a casserole dish. Any dimensions are fine, just use common sense and pick one big enough to fit everything. Now it's layering time baby. Put a little bit of sauce at the bottom, followed by a layer of eggplant, followed by another layer of sauce and finally a layer of cheese. At this point I realized I had no damn parmesan cheese, so I'm only using mozzarella. Fucking sue me! Continue in this order until you use up all of your eggplant.
Once all the eggplant is stacked I like to cover it all with sauce and a big layer of cheese. Mmmmm... Cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil, and put into the oven upside down. Just kidding, rightside up is fine!
Let this bake for 35 minutes, increase heat to 500° and remove foil. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until top is slightly browned.
There you have it. Eggplant Parmesan with no Parmesan. I usually cook up some pasta as well to complete the meal.