Wednesday, August 18, 2010

(43-22) The BEST Thing I Ever Cooked

In case I haven't made it clear by my shameful plea for comments, I would LOVE to hear from you; and so I'm gonna take a bite off the Food Network  and include a new feature called "The BEST Thing I Ever Ate."  Being as fond of food as I am; there's no way that this could be a one time deal; and since I have 344 days to go; I figured - WHY NOT!!
In my June 21, 2009 post "A Lil Bit about Arizona" I wrote of my affinity for food; and if you haven't read that post, but you've seen my picture; I'll bet this comes as no surprise.  I don't really consider myself a foodie JUST because I like everything there is about food - because to me a true foodie is  adventurous and my taste buds are not; BUT I like what I like and I like it a lot.

Being The Queen of INDECISION, I've held off with presenting my "BEST Thing I Ever Ate" segment, because I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to break it down.  On the food Network show (in case you haven't seen it;) they do a different category on each episode, like The Best thing I ever ate FRUIT or the Best thing I ever ate CHEESY etc; And I just haven't decided where I want to go with this - big surprise...  Anyway, in trying to do my research (YES, research;) I asked my kids "What's the BEST thing you've ever eaten?"  AND much to my surprise, all 3 of them said "Anything that you make."  Woohoo, are they brown nosers or what??  But the sweet thing is; they actually meant it!   I thought about what they had said and I realized that I probably would have given the same answer, because my mom was an AMAZING cook.  Sadly when my mom passed away, she took her recipes with her.  Since I was only 19 when she died, we hadn't spent a lot of time in the kitchen together; so any dish that I make that reminds me of her is based on recollection and not fact.

Even though we all KNOW that I'm not going anywhere any time soon; I thought I'd share my Eggplant Parmigiana recipe; since I made it tonight.  MY recipe is based on my memory of my mom's eggplant; and I'm proud to say that it's my signature dish.  (I just had a flashback of Julia Roberts as Shelby in "Steel Magnolia's" saying "Pink is my signature color;" but I digress.) Even people who think that they don't like eggplant - like mine;. And if you can get through this labor intensive meal; I'm sure that you're going to love it as well. 

I will say that I typically like to make this dish in the winter, when it's colder; but hey, when eggplants are only 88 cents each, eggplant parm is good summertime eatin too.  Now depending on how much you want to make and how much work you're ready to endure; THAT will determine how many eggplants you'll need.  (Pretty vague I know - sorry)  I would classify this picture as large eggplants, by the way; and tonight I used 4 small eggplants and I was able to yield one large baking dish and 1 medium baking dish; each with 3 layers of eggplant;  because hey, if you're going to go to this trouble, you might as well have leftovers.   

In addition to the eggplant you will need eggs, milk, seasoned bread crumbs (I like Progresso Italian Style bread crumbs or 4-C if you're on the East coast;) Mozzarella cheese (and I would say that it's worth the extra calories to use the whole milk mozzarella because it makes the dish THAT MUCH better; but if you REALLY don't want to use whole milk mozzarella then the part skim mozzarella won't kill you.)  Lastly, you'll need sauce.  (I like to use Ragu sauteed onion and garlic to save myself a few steps.  In the past I've made homemade sauce and used other brands as well; so it really is your own personal preference on this one.)

I always peel my eggplant because I find the skin to be bitter; but if you don't mind the skin, don't make yourself any extra work.  Slice the eggplant into thin rounds (usually a little thinner than what's shown in the picture above;) and then get to breading.  Crack some eggs into a dish (how many eggs will depend on how many eggplants you have; so start with 2 and add more as you need them.)  Add a dash of milk to the eggs and scramble them up.  Put your bread crumbs in a separate dish and one by one coat the eggplant slices in your egg & milk mixture and then in your bread crumbs.  Make sure that the eggplant is well coated all around and then set the eggplant aside until all of your slices are breaded.  Now it's time to fry (YES, fry!)  I use canola oil, but I add a bit of olive oil as well.  I don't fry solely in olive oil because I don't want my eggplant to taste like olives.  Capisce?  I heat 2 pans of oil at once and when the oil is heated up enough to fry (just a couple of minutes) I add my eggplant slices but do not crowd them.  If you've cut the eggplant thin enough, it shouldn't take them long to get to a golden brown color and once they do; turn them over and give them the opportunity to get just as gorgeous on their other side.  Once they are evenly cooked, remove from the pan to a plate that has several pieces of paper towel so that the excess oil can drain off.  When you are about half way through frying your eggplant stash, preheat your oven to 375.  Once all of the eggplant slices are mouth watering done, take some sauce and lightly coat the bottom of your baking dish (I suggest using a rectangle shape.)  Now we're going to layer.  Take your eggplant slices and lay them in a single layer in the baking dish, cover with sauce (but don't soak them,) then add some sliced mozzarella.  I like each piece of eggplant to have A piece of cheese on it, but it doesn't have to be wall to wall cheese.  Add a drop of sauce to each piece of cheese and you're ready to add your next layer of eggplant.  Once again; if you've cut your eggplant thin enough; you should be able to fit 3 full layers in your pan.  If the eggplant is a little thicker then you will get 2 layers.  On your top layer, cover a little more generously with sauce and cheese, but don't make it a cheese blanket.; and add some dollops of sauce over the cheese.  You'll bake this work of art for about 20 minutes.  For me it's not really about time; I just keep my eye on it until the cheese is bubbling and begging to be removed from the oven.  Trust me; you'll know when it's done.  Remove your pan(s) from the oven and let them cool down just a bit before serving. I usually serve the eggplant with some kind of pasta.
So there you have it, a great Italian classic from a nice Jewish girl.  Ironically enough a lot of the dishes that I make well are Italian, and even though no one in my family was italian, that's what I recall my mom making and REALLY enjoying.

So let's recap; on the table I have the offer for The BEST thing I ever ate segment; and as I said, this has been designed to get you involved; so PLEASE leave your comments and let me know what one of the best things YOU'VE ever eaten was and then I will respond in kind.  OR if you have a better suggestion for how this segment should work, leave me a comment, or send me an email at and then we can get writing about one of my favorite topics; FOOD!

Now don't be intimidated by all of the times that I've mentioned the work involved in making this delicious eggplant parmigiana, because I PROMISE you that the end product will be well worth it and here's my guarantee...If you're not FULLY satisfied with your eggplant and you don't think that it's one of the BEST things YOU'VE ever eaten; you can come over and give mine a try.
Till next time...


Bernice said...

In the UK they are called Aubergines.

Joni Parker said...

I have an eggplant in my frig from my Bountiful Basket last weekend. I think I have all the other ingredients at home (maybe not bredcrumbs), so I may be making this tonight for dinner!! Best thing I ever ate...Hmm....I need to "stew" on that for a little bit... I'll come back with another comment later. (Yes, Stew pun intended)

Christian said...

You can keep the skin on the eggplant and get the bitter out like this: after cutting the eggplant, put lots of salt on it and put it on a plate or something flat. Cover it with something else flat and put something heavy on top. Leave it for a few hours. Then rinse the salt off the slices. The salt draws the bitterness out of the eggplant. It's the Italian trick I learned from my mom ;-)