Eggplant Parm is a dish that I grew up on. My mother is 1/2 Italian, so inherited some damn good cooking skills. It is one of the meals that had a memorable presence at many holidays and birthdays. We have a tradition in my family (although not as well respected now that we no longer live under the same roof) that the birthday girl/boy gets whatever favorite meal they want for their birthday dinner. There was the usual pattern: Dad - Steak and Kidney Pie (I know, I know, some of you probably think that is GROSS, but actually pretty good - although not usually served due to heart consciousness), Sarah - Stuffed Shells, Lana - Lasagna and me - Eggplant Parm! Notice a slight Italian influence? Anyway, eggplant parm is a dish that everyone loves, so now makes appearances at other more notable holidays - Christmas, Easter, whenever we all get together and beg our mom to make it.
It is a dish that I have taken with me down to Pennsylvania and one that will always end up on the dinner/lunch/breakfast/snack table. It does take a little work, but is definitely worth it (my friends can vouch for this I hope) and makes great leftovers. You can use store bought sauce if you dare such blasphemy, but I always make a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce to use for such amazing meals. Below is the recipe that I have stolen from my mom and but my own stamp on:
(makes about one 9" x 13" pan)
2 Medium Eggplants (about 2 pounds)
16 oz block of Mozzarella Cheese (this last time I made it, I used fresh moz, but I think actually processed is better for this dish - aka Polly-O)
3 cups tomato sauce (like I said, I use homemade spaghetti sauce, but any GOOD store bought is OK, I guess)
1 cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Milk
Salt & Pepper
1. Peel and slice eggplants. The slices should be about the width of your pinkie. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to cook. Also, slice cheese and set aside.
2. In a bowl, lightly beat the two eggs and milk with a fork, like you are preparing scrambled eggs. In a separate bowl, add about a cup of flour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat about half an inch of olive oil (my mom always used vegetable oil, but I like olive oil - its slightly more expensive to fry with though) in a frying pan on Medium to Medium High. To test if the oil is ready, drop in a small piece of the eggplant skin. If it bubbles, it is ready. Remember to lay down some paper towels to de-grease the cooked eggplant.
3. Coat the eggplant in flour (make sure to shake off excess flour), then the egg, gently place in pan. Put as many into the pan as can fit comfortably. After about 30 seconds or when brown, flip over and cook the other side until brown. Remove and set on paper towel to soak up extra oil. This is not an exact science, use your best judgement on the cook time and oil temp. The oil should never start smoking, it is too hot. You may need to add more oil to the pan.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When eggplant is cooked, coat the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan with about 4 tablespoons of sauce. Layer slices of eggplant in pan. Put a piece of cheese on each piece of eggplant. Spoon sauce over each slice.
5. Put another layer of eggplant down. Spoon sauce over each one, and add a slice of cheese.
6. Put into oven to cook for approximately 45 minutes. You will know when it is done, because the cheese will start to bubble and slightly brown.
Serve over pasta - a personal favorite of mine is orzo.
This meal is a great one to make for a "dinner party" it is very easy to double and a great crowd pleaser. Plus, it is an excellent leftover food. It tends to get better after a day or two in the fridge, so the flavors meld together. I just put some in the freezer, so we'll see if it is also good de-frosted (I think it will be). Once you start making this dish, it will be hard to erase from your repertoire, people are sure to ask for it over and over again. Unless, you don't like eggplant, then you are just dumb!