Leave The Gun, Take The Eggplant Parmesan – Sunday Dinner

Music: Speak Softly Love – Andy Williams

This was one of the Sunday Dinners menus that was near and dear to our hearts. It is pretty traditional Italian fare and we shared it with friends Peter, Erin and Kurt. It’s not a glamorous meal but it sure got us in the mood to cling to our roots and apply for dual citizenship. We served a traditional antipasto, focaccia, eggplant parmesan with penne and tiramisu (look for this Thursday).

We started the day by preparing a red sauce.  James thought it would be a good idea to put The Godfather on in the background to get us in the mood (he then repeated the first 20 minutes verbatim until I threatened to shut it off).   I know this is not the best way to prevent stereotypes but it sure was fun.

(From James) This recipe holds a very important place in my heart.  It is one of the first recipes I ever learned.  It is a long running birthday meal request; it is made for parties and special guests.  I have used it to impress friends and woo women.  In short, it is a family tradition and a personal favorite.  Eggplant Parmesan is one of the dishes that I never order out in restaurants because it can never be as good as I made it at home.  It is not difficult to make, but there are some tricks to the dish that can ensure excellent results.

First things first: picking out an eggplant.  Eggplants have sexes: males and females. You can tell the difference by looking at the bottom of the eggplant, or the larger round end.  This end has a dimple on it.  Deep dimples indicate a male eggplant; rounded smooth bottoms are females.  For this recipe I use female eggplants because females have less seeds.  Why do we want less seeds?  Seeds equal acid and acid doesn’t taste good and gives us agita.  If you don’t know what agita is, well then…I can’t help you.  Two things can help reduce acidic flavor in eggplants.  First, get the ladies.  Second, press the ladies.  Pressing the eggplant will drain any excess acid juice out of the eggplant and leave behind the flavorful eggplant goodness.

What you’ll need for the Eggplant Parm: (This serves 6-8)

Red Sauce,
1 large container of Italian flavored breadcrumbs
at least a dozen eggs
3 large “female” eggplants
2 lbs give or take of mozzarella cheese sliced,
Parmesan cheese for grating
olive oil
  • Peal each eggplant and slice into 1/8-inch rounds.

  • Layer in a colander and place in a dish.  Sprinkle each layer with sea salt.

  • When all the eggplant is in the colander, place a dish on top.
  • Weight down the eggplant to press.  (When I was younger my mom would put this out to press the night before, but recently I have been letting it press while I make my sauce and set up other parts of the meal, so maybe for only two or three hours).

  • Once the eggplant is done pressing you will notice a pool of brownish acidic juice in the bottom of the dish.  Rinse of the slices and layer them with paper towels to dry.

  • To save time and space, I take a large mixing bowl and beat about 4 eggs with a whisk.
  • Add two or three layers of eggplant to the bowl and mix well to coat completely with egg.

  • Once the eggplant is egged, dredge through the breadcrumbs.
  • Fry eggplants in olive oil in a large heavy skillet until each side is light golden brown, about a minute or more each side. Dry on layers of paper towels to soak up extra oil.

  • While the eggplants are being fried, prepare a large Pyrex baking dish (approx 11 x 14 inches.  For more or less use a smaller dish or a couple of dishes, it’s not a science).
  • Coat the dish with sauce and begin the layering: Sauce/Eggplant/Cheese.
  • Grate Parmesan cheese between the cheese layer and the next layer of eggplant.
  • Continue until all ingredients are used and the last layer is just sauce.

  • Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for a half hour covered with tin foil.
  • After the first half hour take remove the foil and add the final layer of cheese and bake for another half hour watching until cheese begins to turn golden and bubbly.
  • Let rest for about ten minutes before serving.

Although a time consuming and involved labor this recipe really couldn’t be easier and I guarantee it will be a crowd pleaser full of moans, groans and loosed belt buckles…but never any agita.

What you’ll need for the rosemary focaccia: (I got this recipe from epicurious but followed the cooks notes – it came out perfect).

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups lukewarm
2 1/2 tsp. table salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • Stir together 1 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115°F) water and yeast in bowl let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add flour, oil and salt and beat with paddle attachment on stand mixer at medium speed until a dough forms.
  • Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at high speed until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour.
  • Knead dough 1 minute (it will still be slightly sticky), then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil.
  • Let rise, covered with plastic wrap for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan.

  • Let dough rise, covered completely with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 500°F.
  • Stir together rosemary and remaining 3 tablespoons oil.
  • Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then brush with rosemary oil, letting it pool in indentations.

  • Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia.
  • Bake in middle of oven for 5 minutes on 500°F then turn down to 450°F and cook for the remaining 15 minutes.
  • Immediately remove bread from pan and cool on cooling rack.

What we served for the Antipasto:

bocconcini
San Daniele Prosciutto
olives
parmesan
marinated artichoke hearts
roasted red peppers
Caponata di melanzane (eggplant and tomato relish).
melon

2 Comments

Filed under Appetizer, Breads, cookbooks, Food Anecdotes, How to..., Recipes, Sunday Dinner

2 responses to “Leave The Gun, Take The Eggplant Parmesan – Sunday Dinner

  1. this looks so delicious! i’m definitely trying the pressing next time.

  2. Carol

    That is by far the most beautiful focaccia that I’ve ever seen. Great antipasto also.

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