Friday, 29 November 2013

Eggplant Parmigiana

Isn't life funny? Four and a half years ago, I was working as a waitress in a corporate box store restaurant (which shall remain nameless) that "specializes" in kitschy, mostly frozen Italian fare. Their claim to fame was unlimited salad and bread, so you can imagine the kind of clientele that sauntered up to the trough. The place made me viscerally hate pasta and wedding soup, and don't even get me started on chicken parm.

Today, I work in a fine dining independently-owned Italian bistro. It's elegant, modern, and serves many fine wines. We have a chef, and a sous-chef. It's impeccably clean. The only thing they keep in the freezer is homemade gelato. And they don't serve chicken parm.

They do serve melanzane alla parmigiana though (eggplant parm, y'all) and it's one of the most delicious things you could possibly enjoy for $8 (or $12 if you aren't staff). I decided to recreate it at home, with pretty good results. I still recommend you go to Casa and try theirs though - it's a smidge better than mine, and you might run into Dan Aykroyd or Doug Gilmour.

First, the ingredients:
- One large eggplant will feed two people with a little left over
- Italian style breadcrumbs. Make your own with parsley and romano cheese if you want, but you can buy them pre-prepped.
- Two eggs
- Milk
- Buffalo mozzarella. The good stuff. Don't be cheap.
- Tomato sauce. Again, make your own if you're Giada Di Laurentiis but if it's just a Tuesday, buy the jar.
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees while you slice your eggplant. There are a few ways to structure an eggplant parm, but this is the best one I've encountered: lop off the top and the bum of the eggplant and then slice it lengthwise into very thin sheets. Like, eighth of an inch. Leave the skin, it's fine.

Lay out the slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast it in the oven for about fifteen minutes until it starts to turn golden brown. This is a very important step, because eggplant is very bitter and sinewy if it's not cooked through.

When roasted, leave the sheets aside to cool. Slice your buffalo mozz into sticks about a half inch in diameter. Meanwhile, beat two eggs with a quarter cup of milk and pour the bread crumbs into a pan or dish. When your eggplant slices are cool, dip them into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs, thoroughly coating all sides. Place the stick of mozz at the top of the eggplant slice, and then roll it up like a yoga mat around the cheese, tucking the end underneath. Set it into a casserole dish. Repeat it with all the eggplant and cheese until you have a bunch of little roll-ups of eggplant and cheese in your casserole dish.

Spoon some tomato sauce overtop of the rolls. Not too much, or it will make the breadcrumbs soggy. Place into the 400 degree oven for about 20-30 mins or until the cheese is sufficiently melted. If you love cheese, put a little extra mozz on top for the last five minutes in the oven.

Serve the eggplant rollups alongside some green salad and a glass of red wine. Excellent vegetarian winter meal. Hearty and easy!
In the pan, ready to eat! 

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