Saturday, July 30, 2011
Eggplant Parm Tutorial
She may not look Italian but Christy is about to marry into a large family of passionate Italians and she has learned to cook the perfect sauce and eggplant Parmesan from the best...Doug's Grandmother, affectionately called "Sweetie"! On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I asked her to teach me the secret. If you are interested and happen to love eggplant, here is the eggplant parm tutorial......
Prepping the eggplant appears to be the most important part...first she peeled the eggplant with a carrot peeler and thinly sliced the eggplant. She layered the slices, sprinkling each layer with sea salt and several sheets of paper towels. When the layers were all stacked, she added the weight of a Pyrex dish to help press out the moisture in the eggplant. I never realized how much water is in an eggplant.
Next, she started the sauce - two kinds! Both started with the same ingredients - olive oil, onion, celery, garlic. In another pot was the meat sauce - she uses the prepackaged "meatloaf" combination of pork, veal, and beef.... sometimes sausage too if Doug request it! Here is the difference, Christy added a handful of grated Parmesan to the meat as it was cooking and it melted into the mix. When we took our cooking class in Lucca, we were taught to add chicken bullion to the sauce at the end..different region of Italy! Only Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes will do (which they all buy by the case at the wholesale store). I happened to have a splash of red wine, fresh basil, oregano, and thyme from my flower pot garden and then we let the sauces simmer. *Here's a Sweetie tip: if you use fresh tomatoes in your sauce add grated carrot or sugar to help break down the acid in the tomato.
Moving on....this is the messy part! Wipe off the excess salt and pat dry the eggplant slices. Each slice is individually dipped in flour, beaten eggs, and seasoned breadcrumbs - Christy uses whole wheat of course! - and placed in a frying pan of hot olive oil. She only cooked 4 at a time to keep the temperature of the oil hot but they browned very quickly and we had to continue to add more oil to the pan. Place the slices of eggplant on MORE paper towels to drain.
Now assemble, layering the sauce (without meat), fried eggplant slices, thick chunks of mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh chopped basil leaves. Sweetie also adds slices of hard boiled eggs to the layers...but since this is Christy's lesson - no eggs! Now clean up the kitchen (yikes!) while the eggplant Parmesan cooks until bubbly in a 350 degree oven.
Served with pasta and a little of the meat sauce on top it is "to die for"! And Doug reminds me - even better the next day!
Thanks Christy, and Sweetie, for the tutorial.