Eggplant Parm – A New Christmas Classic

I can’t believe we’re more than halfway through January already!  Christmas seems like yesterday and at the same time, so long ago.  Here on Mallorca, it’s already long forgotten, having since been replaced by Three Kings’ Day and, most recently, the festival of Saint Anthony.  Apparently people dress up like demons and roast meat over bonfires in town.

In the meantime, being home gave me the opportunity to cook new things that I’m just not set up for, like this amazing Eggplant Parmesan.  It’s so good.  I got the idea (and the recipe) on TV – Jon Bon Jovi appeared on an episode of The Chew with his father and their eggplant parm.  I think they were promoting Bon Giovi pasta sauce, and the recipe was a bonus.  I realized that this was the meal that I would have to make for Christmas Eve dinner, and I’m so glad I did!  It honestly took forever {several hours}, but it was definitely worth it in the end, and you could even make it the day before and just bake it the day of.  It’s also worth the effort if you only have a small crowd – we were 4, and had plenty for dinner and then leftovers.  It was really nice to grab pieces out of the fridge and heat quickly, especially during the cozy week between Christmas and New Years.  I’ll definitely be making it again.

Here’s a link to the recipe.  I adjusted it a little bit, but you might want to check it out to see the starting point.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants.  {I used actually the biggest eggplants I could find, which you probably don’t want to do if you’re only making one pan; I had a lot of extra fried eggplant.  Which then again wasn’t the worst thing…}
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil.  {You will need a good amount of both olive oil and vegetable oil – probably at least 2 cups each.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of each, but I ended up refilling my frying pan several times.}
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and extra water squeezed out
  • 3 pounds low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 a head of garlic, minced.
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Regiano, divided.
  • Italian-style breadcrumbs. {Recipe calls for 1 container, but you will need more, especially if you use giant eggplant.  I would get at least 3 containers, just to make sure you have enough and don’t need to send someone to the store to get more in the middle of your breading process.  I found Cento Italian Style Panko to be the best – they were the only Italian style breadcrumbs that I could find that weren’t filled with hydrogenated oil and other random stuff.}
  • 2 jars of good quality tomato sauce.
  • 8 ounce package shredded skim mozzarella.
  • Fresh basil leaves.

Directions:

  • Take your spinach out of the freezer so it can defrost.  Squeeze out excess water.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel the eggplant.  Cut off the green nubby part.
  • Slice lengthwise in 1/4 inch pieces.  {Probably easier with a mandolin.  I didn’t realize we had one until after I was all done.  It works with a knife, its just a little uneven.}
  • Heat your oil in a skillet over medium heat.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup vegetable.  However much you use, try and keep the ratio to half and half.
  • Whisk 5 eggs together in a shallow dish.  In a separate shallow dish, pour a bunch of your breadcrumbs.
  • Dredge each piece of eggplant in first the egg dish, than the breadcrumb dish, coating each side thoroughly.
  • Place each dredged piece of eggplant in the oil.  Brown thoroughly on each side and remove.
  • Place eggplant on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil as it cools.  You may need to add to/replace the oil as you go.  Remember to use both oils so your eggplant doesn’t burn and/or taste like vegetable oil.  {Olive oil has a lower smoke point but tastes better/is healthier.}
  • In another frying pan, heat 1tsp olive oil and sautee the mushrooms until soft {about 7 minutes}.  Add minced garlic, cook for 2 more minutes, and let cool.
  • In a large bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the mushroom mixture, and your thawed and drained spinach.
  • Spread half a jar of tomato sauce over the bottom of your baking dish.
  • Layer overlapping slices of eggplant over the sauce to cover the entire bottom of the dish.
  • Add a layer of ricotta mixture.
  • Follow with a layer of eggplant and then another layer of ricotta mixture.
  • Add your final layer of eggplant and top with 1/2 of a jar of tomato sauce.
  • Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmegiano-Reggiano on top.
  • Bake for one hour, uncovered.  {Original recipe says to cover, but I didn’t realize until it was too late.}
  • Remove from oven.  Layer a ribbon of tomato sauce around the edge of the pan.
  • Sprinkle an even layer of shredded mozzerella on top.
  • Evenly arrange basil leaves on top.
  • Return to oven for another 15 minutes uncovered.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
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Ignore the waffles and the ribbon in the background. Christmas Eve was definitely hectic, but this eggplant was so big and beautiful I had to take a picture!

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One naked eggplant.

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Browning eggplant

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Ready to go. You can see where a mandolin could have helped me make things more uniform, but no more delicious!

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Cooked, rested, and ready to be devoured!

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Eggplant close-up 🙂

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