Friday, November 12, 2010

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana has always been one of my favorites!
     I've seen several different preparations of this recipe over the years.  This eggplant parmigiana recipe is one of the best!  You will need to make a salsa pomodoro sauce first.  Tomato sauce is a mother sauce, especially in Italian cucina.  Mother sauces do have many applications, but the basic mother sauce recipe never changes.  In Italian cooking, there are several different tomato sauces that have individual applications for particular dishes.  Salsa pomodoro is the basic tomato sauce most people are familiar with. 
     Salsa Pomodoro Recipe:  Sizzle 8 cloves of chopped garlic and a handful of fine chopped onions in a good amount of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pot.  (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.)

     Add a sprinkle of crushed, dried red pepper.

     When the onions turn clear, add equal amounts of good quality canned imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes and hand squeezed canned imported whole Italian plum tomatoes in their own juices.  (28 ounce cans is what I used for this recipe.  When hand squeezing tomatoes, pour the can into a mixing bowl and squeeze till no big chunks remain)  

     Add a few generous pinches of oregano.

     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.

     Add 1 small bunch of chopped fresh basil.  

     Pour a glass of dry Italian red wine or French Cabernet into the sauce.  

     Heat the sauce till it starts to bubble and then turn the heat to medium low.  (Never cover the pot of an Italian tomato sauce!)  

     Slow simmer the sauce and stir once every 5-7 minutes for 4 hours.  

     The sauce should be simmering gently so that there is very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  

     After 4 hours, the flavors have melded and the tomato sauce has a true body.  The excess tomato huices should be "tightened" into the sauce at this point.   The olive oil will be well combined with the tomatoes, because of the regular stirring.

     Melanzane alla Parmigiana Recipe:  Cut the top and bottom off of a medium size eggplant.
     Cut the skin off of the eggplant.
     Cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin slices.
     Lay the eggplant slices on a pan and sprinkle sea salt on both sides.
     Let the eggplant sweat from the salt.  (Salting eggplant removes the bitter flavor and preserves its natural golden color.)
     Rinse the salt off of the eggplant slices with cold water.
     Whisk two eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt, black pepper and a couple pinches of oregano.  (Some chefs say to add parmesan cheese to the egg mix when egg dipping or breading food.  The idea is to get the egg to stick to the food that is being breaded or dipped.  Adding parmesan to the eggs is unnecessary if you use good techniques.  Besides, the cheese in the eggs does burn slightly leaving an undesirable flavor.  So don't waste the parmesan cheese!  That bad technique has only been around for about twenty five years.  The old fashioned egg wash with no cheese is best!)
     Heat some blended olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat.  (The oil should be 360 degrees before frying the eggplant.)
     Dredge each eggplant slice in flour.
     Dip each slice in the egg wash and lay the egg dipped slice in the hot oil.
     Fry a few slices at a time so the slices don't touch each other.
     Flip the eggplant slices with tongs.
     Just cook the egg dipped eggplant slices till they become a light golden color on both sides.
     Lay each slice on a dry towel to drain off the excess grease.
     Repeat these steps till all the slices are cooked.  (Two eggs is just enough egg wash for a medium size eggplant.)
     Spoon a little bit of salsa pomodoro on a baking pan.
     Overlap two eggplant slices on top of the sauce.
     Spoon a little bit of the sauce on the eggplant slices.
     Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on the tomato sauce.
     Lay two more eggplant slices on top of the first two slices.
     Repeat these steps till the eggplant is stacked four to five slices thick and the eggplant parm stands tall.
     Spoon some sauce over the top of the stacked eggplant.
     Place a few thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese over the top of the eggplant stack.  
     Place the eggplant baking pan in a 450 degree oven.
     Bake until the eggplant parm is hot and the fresh mozzarella becomes soft and slightly melted but not browned.  (Browning fresh mozzarella will cause the cheese to have undesirable bitter flavor.  So just melt the cheese.)
     Remove the baking pan from the oven and use a spatula to slide the eggplant parmigiana onto a plate.
     Serve with al dente cooked anelletti pasta that is tossed with some of the salsa pomodoro.
     Sprinkle chopped Italian flat parsley over the eggplant parmigiana and pasta.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.
     Delicious!  There is no excess sloppy sauce on the plate with this classy eggplant parmigiana.  The sauce has enough great flavor that it is not necessary to use way too much like many restaurants do.  You want to taste the perfection eggplant with a little bit of sauce and not a bunch of sauce covering poorly prepared eggplant!  The eggplant is golden and very fresh tasting when cooked with this egg dip method.  The layers with the grated parmesan are delightful with the fresh mozzarella topping.  Anelletti pasta is a nice accompaniment.  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna      

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