Tag Archives: turning 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!

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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

Working on the next list….

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” – food writer Adelle Davis

This blog started off as a happy distraction to turning 30.  In that regard it was HIGHLY successful as 30 came and went in a swirl of champagne and lobster.  It was also successful by measure of total butter consumption, increased dinner parties, and a spike in the use of puff pastry.

So, as I get ready to launch the NEXT LIST I need your help.  I had been brainstorming a “theme” for my list, when I realized we’re 31 weeks from my 31st birthday.  As we say in the flyover house it was “MTB” (Meant To Be).   So, the next list created itself:  31 Before 31.

There are so many classic recipes and quintessential dishes out there….time for me to conquer 31 more that I’ve never before attempted.  Here’s where you come in: I need help filling up the remainder of the list.  I’m stuck at number 22.

So tell me, what are you “quintessential” dishes?  Are they things your grandmother made from scratch?  Or a favorite item you always order at restaurants? Or just things you’ve heard of again and again?

I have a couple of each category on the list so far:  rack of lamb (classic); Baked Alaska (heard of it…no idea what it is); gnocchi (ordered again and again); and I have perogies on the list, mostly to win points with my mom.

Also, I added a type of bread to the list at the request of a friend who thinks its “funny when you get frustrated”.  See what a good sport I am!?

Ok, so give me your ideas.  I still need 8 or 9 mores to round out this list of mine.  Send me your classics….help!

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. I’m so excited to get cooking again! I’ve missed you.

p.p.s. Confession: I already started the first item on the new list!!!