Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hard Labor

Today I set aside my day to make marinara sauce, fry eggplant, and then assemble the fried eggplant with sauce and mozzarella cheese for the eggplant parmigiana that' going to be my contribution to Easter dinner tomorrow at my brother's house. My brother's mother-in-law is making stuffed shells and baked ziti with sausage, my sister-in-law is picking up fresh baguettes and cheesecake (our favorite from Costco!), and my mother is making the famous salad my nephews love so much.

I used Bon App├ętit's recipe for both the marinara sauce and the eggplant parmigiana.  I've never used a recipe for this dish but I've been saving this particular recipe for some time now and since the eggplant parmigiana was a special request, I figured I'd give it a go.

I decided to use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  I needed the room since I was tripling the recipe (this pot is 15.5 quarts) and I was going to be putting it in the oven for 3 hours, and this dutch oven is made for just that.  You can see the darkening around the inside where it bubbled up, then burnt off.  
While the marinara cooked in the oven, I peeled, sliced, and salted my eggplant.  I've made eggplant parmigiana countless times in my life and have never salted the eggplant, but the recipe called for it, so I did.  

I had over eight pounds of eggplant.  The recipe calls for the slices to be 1/2" to 3/4" but I don't like it that thick, so I sliced them about 1/4" thick.  I laid the slices on a cookie sheet, salted them with kosher salt, and covered them with paper towels.  I continued that process until I had ten stacked layers.  I put another cookie sheet on top and had Ed weigh the entire pile down with an extremely heavy toolbox.  The process squeezes the excess water out of the eggplant.  I left them like that for an hour.  

Once they were done, I started my breading process.  Flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  Flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  Flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  You get the idea.  I did that about 100 times.
While I was doing that mind-numbing task, the marinara finishes cooking.  I took it out of the oven and set it aside to cool.  

Look at this gorgeous sauce.  It tasted fantastic.  I think I'm going to use this recipe for the rest of my life.  It's the best marinara I've ever made.  I didn't use the anchovies (I know it adds umami, but I still think they taste fishy) but the red pepper flakes and dry white wine is not something I've ever added to a marinara and I think it made all the difference.  I can't get over the flavor of this sauce!
Once I was done breading a decent amount of eggplant, I started frying.  I didn't want to be there all night and this was already taking too long.  
I had three frying pans going.  I had so much eggplant to bread that rather than waiting for it all to be done before frying, I did both at once.  The pile of eggplant didn't seem to be getting any smaller and I'd already been at it for three hours.
I decided to do a taste test - it was also time for lunch - so I took a few warm, crispy eggplant cutlets, cut a few slices of fresh mozzarella, and then spooned the still hot sauce over it.  It was sort of a deconstructed eggplant parm and it was amazing.
After I finished my quick taste test/lunch, I got back to frying.  I fried and stacked until I was done.  Once everything was fried up, I assembled my eggplant parmigiana pans. Eggplant, sauce, grated cheese, shredded mozzarella, and repeat.  I filled three 13" x 9" pans and one 8" x 8" pan.  
The entire process from beginning to end, which included washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, took more than seven hours.  SEVEN HOURS.  


I only took two short breaks - one to eat, and one to sit because I thought I was going to die from the non-stop standing and cooking.

I love eggplant.  A LOT.  And eggplant parmigiana is one of my favorites.  But like chicken cutlets, the work involved is insane.  I think it's worth it.  Especially when I'm eating it.  But at that moment, and any other moment I'm craving this dish, I don't remember how much work is involved.

Like gnocchi, I think this is going to have to be one of those dishes I have to eat in a restaurant.

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2018: Heading To The Tall Pines
2017: They Nestled The Produce On Beds Of Kale
2016: Take It To Ramon
2015: California Field
2014: Happy Easter!
2013: A Tree Grows In A Truck Stop
2012: The Herb Whisperer
2011: Turning Tables With Adele
2010: A Different Kind Of Dumpster Diving
2009: Federal Glow
2008: My Mother Is An Oxymoron
2007: The Restroom Shell Game
2006: The Pressure
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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