Me and Nell are working on our cookbook again. Which means more cooking and damnit, more eating.
We couldn't decide if Eggplant Parmigiana was worth including or not - it was something we made a hell of a lot when we were teenagers, but not something I make much anymore. Also I figure it's something most people know how to make. So last night I made a trial batch and the verdict was definitive - delicious and well worth including.
Sarah was a bit surprised that I made it in a kind of layered lasagne style, but this is how I was served it at (the authentically Italian) Sonia's place and I think it's infinitely superior to the dry style which is like a pseudo chicken parmigiana [how did this poor dish become some gross skip pub food?].
This is perfect for when you are craving something baked and tomatoey - the flavours all meld together and the polenta crust gives it a great texture. Mine probably tasted extra good because I made the sauce from homegrown tomatoes - but if you don't have any you could use cheap market roma's or just tinned. Make sure that your sauce has been properly cooked up though, with lots of onion, garlic and simmering time.
I haven't included quantities because this is an easy recipe to expand.. just allow about 1 eggplant for every 2 people. It takes a little bit of time, but it's not hard at all.
You will need:
- A batch of homemade tomato pasta sauce - about 2 cups per eggplant
- Eggplants (I used 3 medium sized ones)
- Mozzarella (a good white one from an italian supermarket)
- Polenta or fine cornmeal (a few cups)
- An egg or two
- Olive oil for frying
- A little knob of parmesan
- Slice the eggplant lengthwise, about 1.5 cm thick
- Sprinkle the slices generously with salt and leave them to sweat for about 15 minutes- this will make the eggplant more tender.
- Cut the mozzarella lengthwise into thin slices.
- Find a casserole/lasagna dish - choose a dish that will give you 2 - 3 layers of eggplant.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)
- Rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry with a clean teatowel.
- Beat the eggs in a wide bowl.
- Put a cup of polenta on a plate.
- Put a heavy frypan on the stove and heat a thin layer of oil. (If you can, it's probably good to have two pans going at once)
- Now dunk the eggplant in egg, and then in the polenta - getting a good crust all round.
- Fry the slices in batches until golden brown - this bit is annoying but you don't need to do a perfect job - it's okay if they're a bit patchy or not fully cooked as they still get baked.
- If the oil gets too smokey you may need to get rid of the burnt bits of polenta and start again.
- Put a thin smear of tomato sauce at the bottom of the casserole dish and then a layer of fried eggplant. Top the slices with mozzarella and more sauce. Then add another layer of eggplant and repeat. Finish with a decent layer of sauce and top with grated parmesan.
- Bake for 30 or more minutes or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the top has gone brown and a bit crisp. If you need to turn the heat up to brown it that's fine.
- Serve with a green salad and some bread for mopping up all that yummy sauce.