Friday, November 12, 2010

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana is one of my favorites!
     I have seen several different preparations of this recipe over the years.  This eggplant parmigiana recipe is one of the best!
     The salsa di pomodoro must be made first and it does take about 4 hours to make this sauce.  Salsa di pomodoro is a standard Italian tomato sauce and it is a mother sauce that is used in many recipes.  Mother sauces do have many applications, but the basic mother sauce recipe never changes.  In Italian cooking, there are several different tomato sauces that are best suited for specific pastas and entrees.  Salsa pomodoro is the basic tomato sauce that most people are familiar with.

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     This recipe makes about 4 or 5 portions of sauce!
     Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add about 5 to 6 ounces of olive oil.  (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.) 
     Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely minced onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the onions brown.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add a 28 ounce can of good quality imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes.
     Place a 28 ounce can of imported whole Italian plum tomatoes or San Marzano tomatoes that are packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.  
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes, till no big chunks remain.
     Add the hand squeezed tomatoes and juices to the pot.  
     Add 4 pinches of oregano.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.  
     Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.  
     Heat the sauce and stir, till it starts to gently boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Leave the pot uncovered.  (Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid, or the sauce will become stewed tomatoes!)  
     Slowly simmer the sauce and stir the sauce once every 5-7 minutes for 4 hours.  
     The sauce should be simmering gently and there should be very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot back into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  
     After 4 hours, the flavors will meld and the tomato sauce will become a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.  The excess tomato juices should be reduced into the sauce at this point.  The olive oil should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or reheat the sauce to order.
     Note:  For a very smooth salsa di pomodoro, allow the sauce to cool, then run the sauce through a hand turned food mill into a container.  Some people like a smooth Italian tomato sauce! 

     Melanzane alla Parmigiana:
     Cut the top and bottom off of 1 medium size eggplant.
     Cut the skin off of the eggplant.
     Cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin slices that are about 3/16" thick.
     Place the eggplant slices on a pan, side by side and sprinkle sea salt on both sides.
     Allow the eggplant to sweat from the salt.  (Salting eggplant removes the bitter flavor and it helps to preserve its natural golden color.  The salts extracts moisture and it actually works like a curing agent.)
     Rinse the salt off of the eggplant slices with cold running water.
     Place two eggs in a mixing bowl.  (Two eggs is just enough egg wash for a medium size eggplant.  Add an extra egg if necessary.)
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Note:  Some chefs say to add parmesan cheese to an egg wash mixture when egg dipping or breading food.  The idea is to get the egg coating 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 and it leaves an undesirable bitter flavor.  Do not waste good parmesan cheese!  Adding parmesan cheese to an egg wash has only been done for about the past twenty five years and it is rather amateurish.  Old fashioned egg wash with no cheese is best!
     Heat some blended olive oil in a deep sauteuse pan or braising pan over medium/medium high heat.  (The oil should be about 1/2" deep.  The oil temperature should be 360º.)
     Dredge each eggplant slice in flour.
     Dip the slice of floured eggplant in the egg wash and place the egg washed eggplant slice in the hot oil.
     Fry a few slices at a time, side by side, so the slices do not touch each other.
     Use tongs when flipping the eggplant slices.
     Cook the egg dipped eggplant slices, till they become a golden color on both sides.
     Place each pan fried slice on wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.  The excess oil can be returned to the hot pan.
     Repeat these steps, till all of the eggplant slices are cooked.
     Spoon a little bit of the salsa pomodoro on a baking pan as a bead for the eggplant.
     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.
     Place two more eggplant slices on top of the first layer, then top that layer with sauce and cheese.
     Repeat these steps, till the eggplant is stacked four to five decks high and till the eggplant parmigiana stands tall.
     Spoon some of the tomato 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 pan in a 350º oven.
     Bake till the eggplant parmigiana becomes hot and till 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 or your favorite pasta that is tossed with some of the salsa pomodoro.
     Sprinkle chopped Italian parsley over the eggplant parmigiana and pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
     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 sauce like many restaurants do.  You want to taste the perfection cooked eggplant with a little bit of sauce and not use a bunch of sauce to cover up poorly prepared eggplant!
     The eggplant is golden and very fresh tasting when cooked with this egg dip frying method.  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna    

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