Monday, November 20, 2006

A recipe title you don't see often

Eggplant Parmesan That My Wife "Would Eat Out of a Dumpster"*

* Actual quote

4 medium-sized eggplants
2 eggs beaten with 4 Tb milk
Seasoned flour or Italian-style breadcrumbs for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
1 32 oz. can of chopped plum tomatoes
1 head of fresh minced garlic (or 4 Tb jarred)
Oregano, basil, or your Italian herb of choice -- dried or fresh
16 oz. of shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Slice eggplants in rounds to 1/4" thickness. Heat a large pan with a little less than 1/4" of vegetable oil until it is hot but not smoking (reduce heat if this happens). Dip eggplant rounds in egg-milk mixture, dredge on both sides in flour or breadcrumbs, and fry in oil until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain eggplant rounds on paper towels, adding salt and pepper to taste immediately upon removing from oil.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Layer a deep greased baking pan with the drained eggplant rounds, overlapping them slightly so as to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Top this layer of eggplant with all of the crushed tomatoes mixed with the minced garlic and Italian herb of choice, followed by 1/2 of the shredded cheese. Top this mixture with another layer of overlapping eggplant rounds, followed by the other half of the parmesan.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until the top layer of eggplants is dark brown and crispy. Serves 8-10.

My mother never made Italian-American style baked casseroles like this, so this one is something I kind of stumbled upon in the kitchen one afternoon when our fridge was empty save for several eggplants that we had failed to use in another recipe. Since we didn't even have breadcrumbs for dredging, I dug out our bag of white flour and kept tinkering with the spices until I got something tasty enough for frying.

The best part of using seasoned flour instead of breadcrumbs if that in the process of frying your eggplant rounds you will have created a rich and delicious roux as a serendipitous byproduct -- you can refrigerate or freeze this and use it as a base for a future stew or gumbo. I used breadcrumbs last night, however, as well as minced garlic from a jar and dried oregano, but this recipe really responds to the bold taste of fresh ingredients, so don't be afraid to throw in a head of garlic or two and some chopped fresh basil leaves.


(For optional cooking ambiance, I recommend playing Frank Sinatra while you chop and fry.)

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