EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA…what a gift Italy gave to the world!! Some commentary on La Parmigiana which is what Italians call it often as in Italy the only PARMIGIANA is Eggplant. There’s some conversation that in Sicily there was also Veal Parmigiana but mostly any other type of Parmigiana was not created in Italy but by inventive Italian immigrant cooks to the United States where they adapted their beloved eggplant parmigiana and decided to use meats, fish, poultry in the same style. It took off and became some of America’s most beloved ItalianAmerican dishes. Veal and Chicken Parmigiana when made well are simply wonderful. Pork and Beef as well as Shrimp are made into Parmigiana too. Let’s though talk about Eggplant Parmigiana. History point again to Sicily as the origins of this meltingly delicious blend of layers of cooked eggplant, Italian cheeses, some tomato sauce then baked to meld everything together. It’s a perfect food. I’m smiling as I blog this thinking of how often my mom made it. Hers was almost always thin sliced and breaded in 4C Italian Flavored breadcrumbs in her Electric frying pan. My sister AdeleMarie has one too and swears it’s the only way to fry batches of eggplant without having to change the oil. It cooks them perfectly she says confirming Mom’s love of the Electric frying pan. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I would salivate incessantly when she’d call for Dad to go down in the basement and bring up the pan. I knew there would be fried eggplant cutlets to eat out of the fryer sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano. By the way, they make amazing hero sandwiches. When we would go to the beach she’d make cold Eggplant Parmigiana sangwiches along with Ham and Cheese, Chicken roll and Swiss, Bologna and cheese sandwiches. Some plums. Some grapes, maybe some nectarines if she thought they were nice at the farmers market, usually Palermo’s or Bifulco’s. So when I think of Eggplant Parmigiana regardless of how it’s made I think of all those times Mom made it. However…the best eggplant Parmigiana in the family, as good as mom’s was, my Aunt Angie Scaramuzzi made the “most bestest”. Enough with my past Parmigiana…let’s talk about how you make it. There’s not one way and my most popular way of making it is thin sliced, dipped in flour, beaten eggs and pecorino, then fried, then layered in the typical manner with cheeses and sauce and baked. However, there’s also a way to just do it on top of the stove. The eggplants are fried in olive oil. then a sauce is made in that oil that’s been infused with garlic and basil. Then the cooked eggplant is layered into the pan, covered in abundant grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, your choice..then topped with Mozzarella, or Provolone, or Scamorza. Again, your choice. The top is covered and once the cheese has melted you’re done. Nice? Great, I thought you’d like it. This eggplant is naked…it’s just fried. This actually harkens back to most Sicilian recipes for La Parmigiana. Many Sicilian recipe have no stringy melted cheese, just the grated. See? You can make this a few different ways. I’m giving you choices here. The leftovers are amazing, infact they taste better on day 2.
SKILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES
1 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANT SLICED INTO 1/4 INCH ROUNDS
KOSHER SALT, BLACK PEPPER
1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR ITALIAN PEELED PLUM TOMATOES
2 TBS TOMATO PASTE
2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR LOCATELLI PECORINO ROMANO
1 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA OR DICED SCAMORZA
In a saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on medium heat. Add the garlic and just when it’s fragrant add the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/ 2 tsp of pepper, some basil leaves, then cook for 2 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in a processor or with your hands, then add to the pot. Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. While that is happening, heat 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil in a heavy wide skillet. Season the eggplants with salt and pepper. On Medium heat fry the eggplant on both sides (CRITICAL HERE!!!) till they are SOFT, the eggplant has to completely cook before you can finish the dish. If your heat is too high you’ll scorch the eggplants, take your time. Should take about 15 minutes to get them soft thru both sides. Add more oil as needed. Remove the eggplants to paper towels to drain. Pour the cooked sauce into the pan. Lay the eggplants in pan…cover with grated cheese, some basil leaves, more sauce, do a second layer if you have enough, more sauce, cheese and basil. At this point you can cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes. This is a very Sicilian way, with no mozzarella, just the grated cheese. DELICIOUS. OR, top the pan with the diced cheeses and cover. Wait until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Now..remove from the heat and let it sit for 2 hours before serving for maximum flavor, just gently reheat. OR you may serve as soon are you’ve let it rest for 15 minutes. Up to you.
Now there’s plenty of flavor in this dish, and there’s not a shopping cart full of ingredients. It’s simple basic flavor which are the hallmarks of Italian cooking. Enjoy this dish..let me know how you like it!!