Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 1 and Eggplant Parmesan

Well, we survived Day 1! It wasn't easy, since I had to be at church in the evening for Ash Wednesday service in addition to working at my temp job all day. That is where the key to surviving this whole challenge (and life, I think) comes in to play: LEFTOVERS. Leftovers are the absolute savior of the home cook. I always hear people say - "Oh, I don't have time to cook every night" - and you don't have to! Just cook two or three nights a week, choose dishes that make a good amount of food (and reheat nicely) and you're done!

So Tuesday night, I set about to make Eggplant Parmesan. Now, I would not recommend you make this on a weeknight. It is a tad time-consuming, but oh so worth it in the end. I had made it once before, and had somehow forgotten how much time I spent on it - my husband remembered though. This is a great dish to make for Sunday dinner - heck, I think it's wonderful enough to serve to dinner guests - and perfect for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

The first step is salting and draining the eggplants for 40 minutes in a colander, then drying them on paper towels.

Now let me digress for a moment and introduce you to my Bible:

This amazing cook book, with over 1,200 recipes, comes from those lovely people who do the PBS show of the same name (hereby known as ATK) and Cook's Country. They also publish my favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Illustrated. I have learned more about cooking from this book than I have in all my years of watching Food Network. They guide you through the process of creating each dish with ease, and each recipe I've made from this book has turned out quite well. I recommend this book to all my friends.

Anyways, onto the recipe (and lovely pictures of course, all taken by my talented husband, whose hobby is photography):

Eggplant Parmesan (serves 6-8, reheats beautifully)
from America's Test Kitchen

For the tomato sauce in this recipe, they recommend making their Quick tomato sauce - which is what I did. The recipe for that follows as well. If you're in a time crunch, you can use jarred - but it's so easy to do it yourself - and cheaper.

2 globe eggplants (2 lbs), sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs
4 cups plain dried bread crumbs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups tomato sauce
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded (2 cups) (I used fresh mozz and just cut it into small pieces, it worked well).

Note: Since I haven't had time to make bread this week, I've been using this pita in its place: it's locally made and has only a few ingredients:

I decided to try to make breadcrumbs out of it for this recipe and it worked beautifully! For 4 cups of breadcrumbs, just tear up 4 pitas, toss into your food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumb consistency!

1. Toss the eggplant with 1 tsp salt (easiest if done in 2 batches) and let it drain in a colander for about 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, adjust two oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour and 1 tsp of pepper in a large zipper lock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs into a shallow dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a second shallow dish.

3. Spread the drained eggplant over paper towels. Wipe away as much salt as possible and press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible. Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove the eggplant, shaking off any excess flour, and dip it into the eggs. Remove the eggplant from the egg, allowing any excess to drip off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere. Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack. Flour, dip in egg, and coat the remaining eggplant with breadcrumbs in the same manner.

4. Remove the pre-heated baking sheets from teh oven. Pour 3 tablespoons oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake until the eggplant is well-browned and crisp on the first side, about 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, continuing to bake until the second side is browned, about 10 minutes longer. (Do not turn off the oven).

5. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Shingle half of the eggplant slices over the tomato sauce. Distribute 1 more cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Shingle the remaining eggplant in the dish and dot with another cup of the sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so that it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup the Parmesan and the remaining 1 cup mozzarella.

6. Place the dish on the lower middle rack of the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and well-browned, about 15 minutes.

shingle the eggplant slices like so

et voila!
The eggplant is crispy and flavorful, the sauce is just sweet enough with a hint of basil and garlic - and the melted mozzarella...well, this is leagues better than any gloppy/greasy eggplant parm you'd get in your neighborhood Italian joint. We've been eating it happily for 2 days now.

Quick Tomato Sauce

3 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 TBSP fresh basil, chopped fine
1/4 tsp sugar

Saute the garlic in the olive oil on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant but not brown. Pour in both cans of tomatoes, stir to combine, then bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until it thickens slightly. Stir in the basil and sugar and remove from heat.

How easy is that? :)


Nicholas said...

This looks DELIGHTFUL! Nicely done.

mark711777 said...

I was JUST thinking about what to do for breadcrumbs! Good thinking!

Suzanne said...

i think that you should make this for me sometime :) looks wonderful!!! and beautiful pictures by nick!

Emily Y. said...

thanks guys! it was quite tasty - i will gladly make it for you, suz! which reminds me - we need to have a cooking party soon!

Julia said...

ATK has never, ever let us down in our kitchen, either! Their recipes seem pretty flawless, aside from the time it takes to prepare some of their dishes. The eggplant parm looks delish! :)

Allison Chamberlain said...

I will definitely be trying this recipe! I'm late to the party (per the usual) but I am loving catching up on your blog! :)