Another foray into veggiedom: Homemade Eggplant Parmesan

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So, I got a little inspired by our last meatless Monday, so I started looking into Vegetarian recipes that were still homey and classic. Veal or Chicken Parmesan has always been one of my favorite dishes, but I’ve never tried the eggplant variety. I’ve had bad luck with eggplant dishes (like my failed attempt at ratatouille), but after a busy weekend, a nice filling Italian dish seemed like just the trick.

First off, major props to ezrapoundcake.com for posting this Cook’s Illustrated recipe: http://www.ezrapoundcake.com/archives/4066. To go a little off topic, this has become one of my new favorite food blogs, especially if you like snarky but girly humor. I knew it’d be an awesome recipe because of the Cook’s Illustrated seal of approval. They take some time, but you know that it will be a perfect recipe because of the time they spend testing each one. It’s cooking for geeks.

Every recipe for eggplant I see has you salt the sliced pieces and let them drain, but every time I try this, I don’t see much liquid come out. I went ahead and did this step though, it’s all put of the ritual I guess. The only other short cut I took was that I used ready-made breadcrumbs instead of making my own fresh. My beloved Cuisinart has died and will be off for repair shortly, so I think I can be forgiven here. It also meant that instead of pureeing my stewed tomatoes into a smooth sauce, I had to take my trusty potato masher to clobber them into saucy submission.

I do have to say, you need tons of counter space for all of the pans and bowls you use for this recipe. I had one for breadcrumbs, one for eggs, one for the smashed tomatoes, a saucepan for sauce, a couple of baking sheets for the eggplant slices, my pyrex baking pan for the final product, plus a cutting board for the eggplant, basil, and garlic. This is some serious cooking, my friends.

Yet, it’s oddly satisfying to take all of these steps and making something so classic and delicious. The smell from the oven as the eggplant was baking with the tomato sauce and cheeses was the best, it took everything Tony and I had not to dig right in when it came out of the oven. Make sure you follow the tip about dotting the sauce on top instead of drowning the slices in sauce, it kept the baked slices nice and crispy with just the right amount of sauce. Combined with some lightly toasted French bread, this was possibly one of the heartiest dinners we’ve had all summer.

Except for those cheese-hating vegans, this would be the best dish to have on hand when you have people over and can’t remember who doesn’t eat what. How can you go wrong with garlic, tomato sauce and cheese? I can do more Meatless Mondays like this.

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