Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not Your Ordi-soggy Eggplant Parm

I was so excited the first time I made Eggplant Parmesan... I got the eggplant all nice and fried up, then I poured a yummy sauce all over it, dumped some cheese on, and threw it in the oven.  15 minutes later I was biting into a rather soggy eggplant!  What went wrong!?  Well apparently Eggplant Parmesan is really more like a casserole type of a dish.  Fooey!  No more... well at least not if you do it this way!  Enjoy!

Not Your Ordi-soggy Eggplant Parm
(Serves 4)

1  large Eggplant, peeled, cut into 8 even slices
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
Italian Seasonings or fresh herbs
1  large egg, beaten
1  Tbs. water
Olive Oil for frying
Additional Parmesan and/or mozzarella for topping

1 Jar of Spaghetti Sauce {or see recipe below}
1 Box of Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti, or pasta of choice

First things first... peel that eggplant!  You may ask why, but I will just respond with why not?  The skin is not nice, just get rid of it!  Then you will need to cut off each end and do the best you can to slice the eggplant into 8 equal rounds, usually about 1/2" in width.  Larger eggplants usually need to be degorged (soaked in salt to get rid of the bitter flavor) but if you have young, fresh eggplant, you may want to skip this step and go directly to the breading and frying.  To degorge you will layer the eggplant slices in a strainer, salting between each piece and weight down for 20-30 minutes.  Notice our rock???  One of the Food Network chefs once mentioned using a brick as a weight for the kitchen... I went and grabbed a rock out of our little dry bed out back.  You could also just use a bowl or glass dish as well.

While your eggplant soaks get your spaghetti sauce simmering in a large pan.  Need a good Spaghetti sauce recipe??? See below!

Begin to prep your breading station as well; mix together your flour, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese.  You can use Italian style bread crumbs, add some Italian seasonings to the mix or even add some fresh herbs.  I added fresh basil and it turned out amazing! Beat the egg up with the water and place near your frying pan with your breading mixture.

Now is a great time to put on your water for your pasta too!

After your salt soak, rinse the eggplant well and pat dry with paper towels.  Get a nice amount of olive oil heated to a medium high temp in a frying pan.  Dip each eggplant round into the egg mixture then into the breading mixture.  Press it into the breading to get all that yummy Parmesan cheese to stick, flip over so both sides get a healthy coating.  Fry in the oil until golden browned on both sides then place on a cookie sheet.

Start that pasta boiling!

Once all of your rounds are fried and placed onto the cookie sheet, place a dollop of sauce in the center of each eggplant round then sprinkle with additional Parmesan, mozzarella, or both!  Place under the broiler till the cheese is melty and beginning to brown.

Take the cooked pasta directly from the pasta water and mix it in with remaining sauce.  To build your plate, take a serving of pasta and place two nice, crunchy eggplant parm rounds right on top!  Yum... that eggplant parm will crunch as you cut into it... combined with that yummy pasta ~ perfection!

Need a go-to Spaghetti recipe...
{Warning: I don't measure when I make spaghetti sauce... and really, you don't need to either!}

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced or mashed
1 small can tomato paste
2 medium cans petite diced, diced, or stewed italian tomatoes
1 large can petite diced, diced, or stewed italian tomatoes
Use whatever tomato products you have on hand, resorting to plain tomato sauce last!
Palm-ful of Italian seasonings (you can get a bulk, generic Italian seasoning or add thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil all separately... I don't think you can mess it up, honestly!!)
A nice dusting of garlic salt and pepper
Red wine for deglazing
Olive Oil for sauteeing
A spoonful of sugar {just do it!}

Dice up your onion and garlic and throw them in a medium high heat sauce pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Stir occasionally until your onions are softened and sweet!

* A fun trick to quickly dicing a whole onion... cut the non-root end off then cut a checkerboard pattern down into the sliced off end then slice the onion as if you would normally do for rounds.  Perfectly diced onion! *

At this point, feel free to add any of the following if you wish: sliced mushrooms, diced zucchini, broccoli, grated carrot, ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey (I don't recommend ground lamb however!!!), Italian sausage, ground or precooked and sliced into rounds. Saute it all up to a nice caramelized place.  The kiddos won't even know the veggies are there... if you diced them small enough that is ;-)

This next step is what makes the spaghetti sauce have it's nice rich flavor!  Add the tomato paste to the sauteed onion and add all of your seasonings... including a spoonful of sugar!  Stir over a medium heat and let the paste cook down and become a bit caramelized itself.  When you feel like the paste may start to burn, deglaze the pan with a pour of red wine and let the red wine boil off.  Quickly add your remaining tomato products and stir all together till well mixed.  Give it a taste and adjust any seasonings to your preferences!  Let simmer...

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