Here we come to the fabulous letter E. I could have written an article about emulsions such as mayonnaise or talked about cooking in an earth oven. But, where would the fun be in that? I’ve already touched on emulsions in the A article when I told you about aioli. Trust me, emulsions are not easy to make, but can be fun.
If you don’t believe me, then scoot on over to food.com and grab the section on making your own emulsions with Alton Brown. Now there’s a guy who can break down the complexity of emulsions into basic human English. Even my eight year old son can understand how he does it.
No, instead, I give you something tasty and can be very simple to try after you go shopping for the ingredients. What I’m going over today is the dish known as Eggplant parmesan. It’s easy to make as far as cooking goes and even die-hard vegetarians will love it.
Eggplant itself is a member of the squash family. It can be a little bitter when eaten raw, but not so much it makes you gag. Cook it properly and the sweetness comes out to dance around your tongue. It needs to be tender, not mushy to be truly great and it takes on different flavors without being drowned by them.
Some say you have to skin the eggplant. Yes, the skin can be bitter, but that adds a new depth to the flavor profile and you won’t have to add too much salt. Even the right sauce can be enhanced by leaving the skin on. I’ve always thought it turned just as sweet as the flesh when cooked.
Eggplant Parmesan is from a class of dishes known as Parmigiana. Parmigiana is a Southern Italian dish made with a shallow-fried sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant (also called Aubergine) is the earliest version. Variations made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularized in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration.
Needless to say, this is a dish that makes you go into that happy food heaven when done without making you feel like you’ve eaten a lot.
The Recipe: (courtesy of Bobby Flay)
Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes and their juices, crushed with your hands
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey, to taste
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the red peppers and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Return the mixture back to the pot, add the parsley, basil and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer and season with honey, if needed.
5 cups fresh dried breadcrumbs (made from dried day-old bread)
Butter, for greasing the dish
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 medium eggplants (about 2 1/4-pounds), cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices (need about 18 slices)
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil, for frying
Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
12 ounces grated mozzarella (not fresh), plus 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
12 ounces grated fontina
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Fresh basil leaves, torn
To dry out the bread crumbs:
Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.
Evenly spread the bread crumbs on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, turn the oven off and let the bread crumbs sit in the oven for 30 minutes or until just dry.
Raise the temperature of the oven up to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 15 by 10 by 2-inch baking dish and set aside.
Place the bread crumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add the herbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and 2 tablespoons of water together.
Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Heat 1/2-inch of oil in 2 large straight-sided saute pans over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the tomato sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, grated mozzarella, fontina, Romano cheese and some of the basil. Repeat to make 3 layers ending with the sauce. Top with the fresh mozzarella and remaining Romano and bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
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