OK so a bit of a weird one today – here’s how it started:
I was watching tv and catching up on recorded episodes of Desperate Housewives. The character, Angie (who is played by Drea de Matteo who was Adriana in the Sopranos, until she got whacked by Bruce Springsteen’s guitar player) is having a flash-forward of what her life would be like if she made a particular decision. None of that matters. What DOES matter is the fed who comes in and tosses as foil wrapped tube on the desk and says “Egg Parm”
If, like me, you spent summers on a small island off the Jersey coast, and if your family, like mine, was of Italian descent, and if you had an aunt like my Aunt Helen, the words “egg parm” could make you actually drool. It translates to Eggplant Parmigiana and will never be “aubergine parmesan”, just like for me it will never be “courgette” but always zucchini.
It takes a long time. It is def. a labour of love. But when it comes out of the oven, when you cut in to it, when you taste that first melting bite, you know it was all worth it. Vegetarians, take note. Vegans, look away now.
This is NOT a photo of my egg parm – I don’t style my food, so it doesn’t look nearly as good on the plate as this one does, but I bet it tastes better.
2 lbs of eggplant (about 2 BIG ones or 4 small ones)
4 cups of passata
garlic (a few cloves, minced or pressed thru a garlic press)
1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (as in stale, dry bread, whizzed up in a blender or food processor, not the yellow crumbs they sell here – and you can mix in a teaspoon of italian seasoning herbs) mixed together
3 large eggs, beaten with a couple of tablespoons of water
1 1/2 lbs of good fresh mozzarella cheese sliced thin (if you MUST, the grated kind will work but it is no-where near as good)
1 cup good grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese
1 cup of packed fresh basil leaves
Start by salting and draining the eggplant – do NOT be tempted to skip this step. Slice the eggplant in 1/4 inch slices, and layer them with salt in a colander. Put some greaseproof paper over the top layer and weight it down (I put a few plates on the top then put the cartons of passata on them) and leave it for a couple of hours.
Mix the passata with the garlic and 1/3 cup olive oil – whisk well, season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside
Dry each slice of eggplant, dusting off the excess salt, if any. DO NOT RINSE THEM (you want to get rid of the moisture, not add it back in!) and lay them on paper towels/kitchen roll
Put about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a large skillet and heat to shimmering (keep a lid handy, just in case. I don’t often fry anything so that much hot oil on the stove makes me nervous and I have an electric stove!)
Put the egg mixture in one shallow bowl, the breadcrumb and flour mix in another. Have it all on the counter, eggplant slices. egg mix, breadcrumb/flour.
Now, like an assembly line, dip the eggplant slices in the egg, then coat in the breadcrumb mix, then slip them into the oil, a few slices at a time, and fry till golden, turning it once. Take the slices out and drain on paper towels.
Once all the slices are fried, preheat the oven to about 160 to 180 degrees depending on if it is fan assisted or not.
Get a big baking dish (about 10 x 15 and a good 3 inches deep) and put about a cup of the sauce in the bottom. Layer up 1/3 the eggplant slices, 1/2 the mozzarella, 1/2 the basil leaves and 1/3 the grated cheese, top with 1/2 the remaining sauce then repeat, and end with a layer of eggplant slices topped with the rest of the sauce and parmesan cheese.
Pop into the oven for about 30 minutes till it is all hot and bubbly and the cheese on top is slightly brown and crispy. Let it rest at room temp for 10 minutes or so .
Serve with crusty bread and a nice green salad. If you can control yourself, you will have enough left to make a “egg parm sub” (hot or cold leftover eggplant parmigiana on a soft torpedo roll)
I can hear it calling to me from the fridge….
THIS is what mine looks like and it was delicious.