Friday, February 20, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

A good eggplant parmesan ought to be substantial enough that you almost feel like you're eating meat. For years I've tried different recipes but haven't found anything that creates this effect. I also didn't really want to deep fry the eggplant, even if that might have been a potential secret. But I just found a great recipe-- thanks to my friend Bob. He had served it before at a dinner party and I vowed to get the recipe. I made it last night, and it's amazing. I believe the original source is Cook's Illustrated. The eggplant is baked, too, so it's almost good for you.


2 pounds globe eggplant (2 medium eggplants), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 slices high-quality white bread, torn
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tomato Sauce

3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella, (2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 fresh basil leaves torn, for garnish

1. FOR THE EGGPLANT: Toss half of eggplant slices and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in large bowl until combined; transfer salted eggplant to large colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and kosher salt, placing second batch in colander on top of first. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.

2. Put two rimmed baking sheets on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to fine, even crumbs, you should have about 4 cups. Transfer crumbs to pie plate and stir in 1 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

3. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat eggplant. Take out one baking sheet, add three Tblsp. regular oil. Remove eggplant slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on heated baking sheets. Stick in oven. When sheet is full, do same thing with other baking sheet.

4. Bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.

5. FOR THE SAUCE: While eggplant bakes, process 2 cans diced tomatoes in food processor, about 5 seconds. Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of diced tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately

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