Category Archives: 31 Before 31

Eggplant Parmesan (for Snobs)

“A true snob never rests; there is always a higher goal to attain…”  – J. Russell Lynes, editor of Harper’s Magazine

So as you know, I like to stick to the traditional versions of the food on my list. My whole schtick is to  get a feel for the classic flavors and methods.

Well so much for that.

I’ve had eggplant parmesan.  Or rather, I’ve had “eggplant parmesan” (quotes intentional) which was pretty much breading covered in sauce and cheese.  OOhhh, someone’s feeling a little snobby!

I was hoping that when I tackled this recipe it would be better than the restaurant versions I’d had in the past.  More flavorful and more interesting.  (Seriously, so snobby!) So I had an open mind when I found this non-traditional but still authentic recipe from Mario Batali: Parmigiana di Melanzane.

Step one with any eggplant recipe is to remove the bitterness from the eggplant.  This is done with a mixture of white wine and group therapy.  Or maybe just salt.  Slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for 30 minutes while the bitter juices weep out of the eggplant.  For real, it’s called “weeping”.

Letting the eggplant "weep". I couldn't tell if it was weeping out of joy or sadness...eggplant are tricky like that.

While the eggplant was weeping, quietly thank goodness, I made the basic tomato sauce, which is really simple.  Saute your onions and garlic in olive oil. Add fresh thyme and chopped carrots.  Then add your can of whole tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.  Simple!

So our sauce is cooking and we’re done weeping (for now).  Rinse and dry the eggplant…maybe with a few words of encouragement since its probably still emotional.  The eggplant now gets dipped in egg and pressed into the breadcrumbs to coat.

eggplant in breadcrumbs

Now that the eggplant has wept, it gets a coat of breadcrumbs. After I weep, I usually just get ice cream.

Mario’s recipe doesn’t call for dipping in egg, but all the reviews stated that it was hard to adhere the breadcrumbs without it.  So, I went with my instinct and dipped the eggplant first.

The coated rounds of eggplant go into a saute pan of heated olive oil for a few minutes on each side:

sauted eggplant

The eggplant was no longer weeping, but rather was rejoicing, because what isn't happier when breaded and fried!?

Now comes the biggest divergence with our traditional recipe.  As you fry the rounds of eggplant, they get placed on a large baking sheet:

breaded and fried eggplant

Breaded, fried eggplant...not a tear in sight!

As you can tell, there are varying sizes of eggplant.  Choose the largest ones to be the “base” of each of your stacks.

The eggplant parmesan now gets layered in the following order:

1. eggplant

2. spoonful of tomato sauce (mmmmm)

3. slice of fresh mozzarella (double mmmmm)

4. Parmesan cheese

5. Another slice of eggplant

Repeat for each of your stacks ending with a sprinkle of Parmesan on the top of each.  They are now little towers of Italian goodness:

eggplant parmesan ready for oven

Towers of eggplant. And yes, I'm cooking in a pure white button down shirt....I like to live dangerously.

So now our stacks are ready for the 350° oven.   They go in for a brief 15 minutes to melt the cheese into the warm loveliness that pretty much equals Eggplant Parmesan.

And then:

eggplant parmesan

Ready to be served/devoured depending on your mood

GORGEOUS!  Melty, crispy and a little sweet.  I hate to say it, but they were way better than your typical restaurant “eggplant parmesan”.  Actually…I don’t hate to say it, because it was really good.

eggplant parmesan

Seriously...don't these look SO much better than the stuff hidden under the blanket of cheese!?

So as you can tell by my enthusiastic captioning, they were delicious.  The eggplant was al dente, the sauce was light and a little sweet and they still had the appeal of frying and cheese.  Because I’ll readily admit…its still about the frying and the cheese.

UNFORESEEN BONUS(ES): 1. The sauce: make it.  Simple, fast and delicious.  A PERFECT topping. This Batali guy might really catch on. 2.  No meat!!  I usually have to think ahead to cook vegetarian, but this was perfect for Friday meal when meat was verboten for us and our house guests.  Totally had them convinced I was a pro.

Dinner was light and satisfying, the snobs guests were happy, no one wept except for the eggplant.

AND my white shirt remained spotlessly white.  (Cue tears of joy)

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Things are slowing down in the Flyover house after an extended busy season at work.  More posts at a much quicker rate.  HUZZAH!

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

“Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.” – Don Quixote

When I was talking about my 2nd list with people, I’d throw out a couple sample items.  Often, I’d offer Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic as a sample.  I got a lot of horrified looks.  And a lot of “Wait…40?  40?”.

Yes, we’re using 40 cloves of garlic, kids.  And yes, you will still be able to kiss that certain someone.  Well, unless that certain someone is Edward Cullen (keep dreamin’ sister) Then you might have problems.

Annnnnyway, let’s get started.  I used a couple recipes for this project.  One from The Joy of Cooking and the other from my new favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe Cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated. And finally, I went to the lady herself, with Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten.

Cooks Illustrated and Barefoot in Paris

HItting the books......

First, your pieces of chicken get seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.  Then cook them in batches, a few minutes on each side.  Set them aside and cover with foil…..we’ll get back to this in a bit.

Now, peel your garlic cloves but DO NOT chop them.  This is key.  The smaller you chop your garlic, the stronger the flavor.  So, if we’re using 40 of them, those puppies are going to stay whole:

Cloves of Garlic

This is what 40 cloves of garlic looks like.......

Now we cook these whole cloves in a dutch oven in some oil.  WARNING: this part will make your house smell delicious:

garlic cloves

Dutch oven with 40 cloves of garlic.

And a little bit later….

cloves of garlic

Cloves getting nice and brown....

The garlic gets soft and browned and it just smells different. It’s softer and smells roasted and rich.  Mmmmmm.  Now on to the next step…..

Add your liquid to the pot: a mix of dry white wine and cognac.  Add this to the pot with the garlic, your thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

white wine garlic

Garlic and wine. Win and Win.

The chicken now gets returned to the pot.  My chicken just barely fit in there, but I moved it around every once in awhile.  30 minutes or so, test with your thermometer to make sure you won’t poison anyone, then pull your chicken out of the pot and set aside.

Now crank the heat back up on your sauce.  Pull out 1/2 a cup of the sauce and mix in some flour to make a slurry:

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic sauce

For real, the technical term is slurry....

Whisk the slurry back in the sauce to thicken it and then pour over your pretty plated chicken:

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

So as I type this it is 10pm and I haven't eaten dinner and seriously this could not look any better.

And now we’re ready to rock.  Serve this deliciousness over mashed potatoes (because why wouldn’t you) and with slices of crusty bread (because the more carbs the better).

So how was the chicken?  Pretty good.  Juicy and roasted, but the real star was the sauce.  And its really weird to write this, but it really didn’t even taste that much like garlic.  This was a totally new kind of garlic.

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

The Garlic is served!

UNFORESEEN BONUS: Garlic. Is. Amazing.  Cooking garlic this way makes it so incredibly soft you can smear it on bread with a knife.  For real.  Do it.

So try Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic if for no other reason than it will be  a totally different garlic experience for you.  And you can make out with your vampire boyfriend afterward.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. As usual, thank you for being patient with my intermittent blogging.  Work is a liiiitttlle rough right now.  You guys are the best.

Pommes Annas

“The potato, like man, was not meant to dwell alone.” – NY Times food columnist, Sheila Hibben

Potatoes aren’t the first food that comes to mind when you think “romance”.  I mean, you can’t dip a potato in chocolate.  BUT- when the potato is elevated by adding it’s soul mate, butter, then things start to get a little more amorous.   Which leads us to the traditional French side dish, Pommes Annas.

Legend says the dish is named for one of the coquettes of Paris in the late 19th century.  Leave it to the French to make potatoes sexy.

Pommes Annas has 4 ingredients: potatoes, butter, salt and pepper.   The thinly sliced potatoes get layered in a pan and baked, forming a “cake” of delicious buttery potatoes.   A sexy coquette inspired potato dish seemed perfect for our Valentine’s dinner.

Step one is to peel and thinly slice the potatoes.

Pommes Annas

Sliced potatoes....not sexy.

The sliced potatoes now get layered in your pan.  The classic French method uses a special copper pan, which of course I am without. (Feel free to remedy that, Handsome Husband)  But, an ovenproof skillet is a common substitute and that I did have.  A little melted butter goes in the pan and the potatoes get layered in pretty circles with some salt and pepper.

The pan goes over heat to start forming a “crust” on the bottom layer of potatoes.   The remaining melted butter gets poured over the layered potatoes:

pommes annas

Just a splash/stick of butter

The potato cake cooks on the stove top for several minutes, pressing down to help the cake form and shaking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan.  Although, I don’t know how anything could stick to a pan that has 8 tablespoons of butter in it….

pommes annas

A potato cake in the making

After sauteing and pressing down for 10 minutes or so, cover the whole thing, and into the oven it goes:

pommes annas in the oven

Let's see how this turns out.....

Every once in a while, I’d reach in and shake the pan again, just to make sure the potatoes weren’t sticking.  Again…there was a lot of butter in there.  But wouldn’t you know it….

They stuck.

So much for the power of 8 tablespoons of butter.  I don’t even have a picture of the “pommes annas” (quotes intentional) because it was basically a pile of buttered potato slices. Not terribly sexy.

UNFORESEEN BONUS:  Although a failure by French standards, this recipe still yeilded a pile of buttery potoatoes.  And who doesn’t like buttery potatoes? Not moi.  We ate them all with our Valentine’s fondue.

So, my apologies to the coquette Anna (whoever you are) for ruining your potato namesake.  Some of us just don’t have that same j’nes se quoi.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Raw Eggs and La Dolce Vita

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” – director Federico Fellini

If life is a combination of pasta and magic, then Pasta Carbonara is la dolce vita itself.   Using a little cooking magic and mound of cheese, it was a guaranteed winner in the Flyover House.

I started with a recipe from this little book, which I picked up 5 years ago at a sale at Barnes and Noble; which means that book has been moved to 4 different addresses.  But I digress….

Carbonara is relatively simple.   Hot pasta is tossed with bacon and an egg/cheese mixture.  The heat of the pasta cooks the eggs and turns everything into an otherworldly mix of creamy saltiness.   And unlike most magic,  you can do this without any slight of hand or even a lovely assistant.

Start by bringing the water to boiling for your pasta.  Also, heat your oven to 200° and place an ovenproof bowl in there to warm.  This will be the bowl the pasta gets tossed in.

Cook the chopped bacon and then the garlic.  I added some asparagus, thinking that it would at least make the pasta a little “healthy”.  However, I cooked that asparagus in bacon fat.  Which I’m pretty sure negates any positive impact.

Pasta Carbonara

Cheese, garlic, asparagus....

As the bacon and asparagus were cooking, I mixed the Parmesan, mozzarella, and two eggs together in a separate bowl and set aside.

Pasta Carbonara

Egg and cheese mixture

I know your getting all nervous about those eggs.  No, they haven’t been cooked.  No, we’re not going to cook them.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fine…’s part of the magic.

Once the pasta is done, drain it, and place it in your oven warmed bowl.  Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the pasta and toss thoroughly.

pasta carbonara

If you look closely, you can see the magic happening!

The magic here is in the timing.  The hot pasta gets drained and then immediately gets tossed with the eggs and cheese.  The heat of the bowl and the heat of the pasta cook the eggs.  PRESTO!  No magic words needed….just good kitchen timing.

Now add in the bacon/garlic/asparagus mixture and toss again.  I also added a dash of heavy cream, but mostly because it was leftover from another recipe and I was getting in the nasty habit of putting it in my morning coffee.  Seriously…that stuff is dangerous.

pasta carbonara

That asparagus really lightens it up....

And presto chango….the eggs and cheese heat and make the most decadent sauce for the pasta.  It’s not as heavy as you might think because a lot of the creamy quality comes from the eggs, not from actual cream.  Actually, most traditional carbonara recipes use no cream at all.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: From start to finish this whole recipe probably took about 25 minutes.  And it was delicious.  Rachel Ray, you’ve been served.

pasta carbonara

As beautiful as an Italian art film!

Plus, it has crispy flecks of salty bacon.  Which honestly, makes anything just a little bit magical.  Dished out in big bowls with a couple glasses of a cool, crisp white wine, our kitchen was dangerously close to a Fellini film….

pasta carbonara and Ferderico Fellini

La Dolce Vita

Or as close to a Fellini film as a German/Irish girl in the Midwest can get.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Thanks for the patience.  This is the busy season at work, which I promise will be followed by a busy blogging season.  The latter containing noticeably more butter.

The Next List (finally!)

“Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Welles

I have once again been thwarted by distraction:  I had a cold, then I was busy at work, then one night I was sidetracked by “Gossip Girl” (I know…shameful.)  But, I have stalled long enough.

But I'm so distracted by the antics of Upper East Siders on the CW....

Last week I figured out that I was 31 weeks from my 31st birthday.  Being Type-A, I work well with even artificial deadlines, so it seemed fortuitous.  So here goes nothing (cracks knuckles).  Time to conquer another list of quintessential recipes….all of which are new to me.

Strap on your aprons, sharpen those spatulas….we’ve got one ambitious/delicious list in front of us.  Here they are, in the order God intended:

1. Saltimbocca- it means “jump in your mouth”.  Sold.

2. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic- to keep the vampires at bay

3. Egg Drop Soup

4. Baked Alaska – I literally have no idea what this is

5. Calzones

6. Perogies – especially for my mom

7. Baba Au Rhum- “Rhum” = rum so it should be good

8. Pommes Annas- I think this is pretty much layer cake made out of potatoes and butter

9. Pasta Carbonara

10. Rack of Lamb- Valentine’s day dinner?

11. Beer- no really, I’m brewing beer.

12. Gnocchi- pasta made of clouds

13. Plum Pudding- suggested by my London-loving friend

14. Weiner Schnitzel- for the German in all of us

15. Croque Monsieur – or the egg-tastic Croque Madam

16. Homemade Sausage – I didn’t get a sausage stuffer for Christmas for nothing!

17. Eggplant Parmesan

18. Boef Bourguignon – per a request from a Francophile friend

19. English Muffins – my favorite

20. Steak Au Poivre – the Handsome Husband’s favorite

21. Ceviche – hopefully I will not poison anyone.

22. Pickles – totally trendy

23. Something “en flambé”- gather round while I light things on fire!

24. Pheasant- hunted and donated by a friend!

25. Classic Fish and Chips

26. Baklava – from another friend’s family recipe!

27. Crepes

28. Quail with Rose Petal Sauce – from the book “Like Water for Chocolate” 

29. Real macaroni and Cheese – the good stuff!

30. Summer Rolls- fresh and delicious

31. Chicken Kiev – for a “Mad Men” themed night, perhaps?!

Quite the list, huh?  I’m so excited to start cooking/burning/stuffing/eating.  In factI’ve already started!  Thanks for helping with all the ideas….now hit the gym, there is butter ahead.

xoxo The Flyover Foodie