Wish Upon A Dish: Eggplant Parmigiana Update

April 23, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana Update

I was so tired on Thursday that The Nudge took me out for a salad at our favorite lakeside Italian place. They make a wonderful grilled portabello salad. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. Something light, yet substantial.

I had to stay one more day down south with my dad in the hospital but we got some good news. They will not have to re-cut his chest open. They can fix his leak in his new valve with a teeny tiny clamp and use a catherization procedure to do it.

After shopping in the morning, I actually got to make my eggplant. I just needed good ole comfort food.

I make my eggplant different from most people. If there are hardly any seeds I do not salt the slices. It is the seeds that make it bitter. I also do not peel the eggplant. The skin is edible and after you see how crispy the skin fries and bakes up, you will want to do it this way also. The Nudge looks for those crispy parts around the edges of the pan. I know a lot of people who love the edges of baked dishes.

I also bake mine in a deep pan instead of a lasagna-style pan. I find it has a meatier texture when there are over 5 layers of goodness.

Slice your eggplant no more than 1/4" thick. Not too thin but not too thick. You want to taste the eggplant, crust and cheeses in equal proportions.
When you fry the slices, make sure they are slightly darker then golden brown. I like them as dark as fried chicken.
I use an equal amount of canola and olive oils but if a large tin of pure olive oil is always in your pantry, this is the place to use it. Drain well on paper towels.

There really is no recipe for this dish, it is all in the technique.
See all those wonderful thin layers in my portion? Really good, and even better the next day for lunch or sandwiches or make ahead and serve it for dinner later in the week. It is labor intensive so make a lot all at one time.

I learned to make this from my Mother's best friend who we called "Aunt Mary". I have given this recipe to dozens of people and no one can make it the same as I do, even my sister has never mastered it.

Eggplant Parmigiana
makes enough for 8 servings
* 1 medium eggplant, clean smooth skin, free of blemishes
* 1 large package of mozzarella in the package, not fresh, grated
* 1 full cup packed grated parmigiana cheese (after all, that's what this dish is called)
* 2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
* 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
* 2-3 tablespoons of milk
* salt & pepper
* 2-3 cups dried flavored bread crumbs, not fresh ones

1. Set up 2 dishes for the breading. Beat the eggs and milk with salt & pepper in one dish and place the crumbs in the other.
2. Get a platter to put the breaded slices on. Bread them all at the same time.
3. Place all your slices in the egg mixture and turn them around to start coating them with the egg mix. The salt in the eggs will start the process of removing water from the eggplant but the slices will just absorb that flavor back in again, almost like a natural brine.
4. In about 1 1/2" of oil, fry as many pieces of eggplant as will fit in your stainless steel pan. Do not use non-stick. The temp will be too high for it and you do not need a non-stick, the slices will float.
5. As you watch the slices cook, you will notice that they form an air pocket in the center. When that happens it is time to turn them over the first time.
You will continue to do that until they brown and get crispy, probably a total of 5-6 minutes each. I fry a whole pan full at a time and do not add new slices until I remove all the cooked ones. When you see browned crumbs at the bottom of the pan, remove the oil to a heat-proof Pyrex glass measuring cup and then once the crumbs settle to the bottom, pour back the oil into the pan stopping short of the browned bits and add new oils to maintain the level. I do this usually once during the cooking process.
6. Place cooked sliced on a paper towel lined sheet pan, adding a layer of new towels after the first is full. I got about 3 layers of slices. Now I clean the stove and bowls and get ready to assemble.
7. In this order on your table or counter......sauce, bowl of grated mozzarella, grated parma, baking pan, sheet pan of slices.
8. Spray bakeware with Pam, spread the bottom of baking dish with sauce to cover, and lay pieces of eggplant in a circle ending with one in the middle, about 5-6 slices each layer.
9. Next comes the Parma, be generous with this, at least 2 teaspoons on each slice.
10. A light layer of mozzarella goes on next and then repeat.
Sauce, eggplant, Parma, mozzarella and sauce, slices, etc. until you are done. Top with lots more mozzarella then sauce. I save about 1/4 cup of mozzarella to sprinkle on the top after I remove the finished casserole from the oven. The residual heat will melt it perfectly.

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