Saturday, September 21, 2013

The good eggplant

Video capture of the New York Times'
Melissa Clark eating the messy sandwich.
I made this with a regular local eggplant (one was plenty for two sandwiches), some leftover spaghetti sauce and the focaccia squares from Trader Joe's. Jim has never liked eggplant, but he loved this. Neither one of us could finish our sandwiches; it made quite the big dinner.

I just went off the video, but later saw the recipe from this past week's New York Times' food section. I was pretty close, actually, but the extra fresh garlic and some red chili flakes would have been awesome. I may even try to grill the eggplant first the next time I make this, because the raw eggplant just sucked up a bunch of oil. The egg and dry cheese coating, however, was inspired.

Frankies Spuntino’s Fried Eggplant Sandwich

Time: 3 hours 20 minutes (if you use prepared spaghetti sauce, it takes less than an hour)

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch red chile flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, more as needed
5 small Italian eggplants (2 pounds)
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons ground Parmigiano-Reggiano, more as needed
6 tablespoons ground pecorino Romano, more as needed
1 very large or 2 medium ciabatta loaves, for serving

In a large deep saucepan over medium low heat, combine 1/4 cup oil and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in chile flakes; cook 30 seconds.

While garlic cooks, place tomatoes and juices in a large bowl and crush with clean hands. Remove tomatoes’ firm stem ends and any basil leaves packed into the can. Stir crushed tomatoes and salt into pot. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tomatoes and garlic have completely broken down and sauce is thick, about 2 hours. Cool.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment or paper towels. Trim stem end from eggplants; peel and discard skin. Using a knife or a Japanese mandolin, slice lengthwise into 3/16-inch-thick slabs. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant slices with salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Pat eggplant dry with paper towels.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with paper towel and place a wire rack on top. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 cup oil until a drop of water flicked into pan sizzles. Working in batches, fry eggplant until just tender, 20 to 30 seconds per side. Transfer fried eggplant to rack to drain. Remove skillet from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano and 2 tablespoons pecorino. Add 3/4 cup oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until oil is sizzling.

Working in batches, dip drained eggplant into egg batter; fry in oil until lightly golden and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per batch. You will know oil is hot enough if batter puffs and sticks to eggplant on contact with oil. If it falls off, the oil isn’t hot enough.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Arrange eggplant over the bottom of pan in a tight, even layer. Top with 1/3 of the remaining combined cheeses. Repeat layer of sauce, eggplant and 1/3 of cheese. Finish with a final layer of sauce and cheese (reserve any remaining sauce for serving). Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is melted and golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven; Spoon additional sauce over top, and garnish with additional cheese. Cool for at least 20 minutes.

Cut eggplant into six equal pieces. Cut ciabatta into six pieces equal to the size of the eggplant servings. Split each portion of the ciabatta horizontally and toast. Sandwich eggplant portions between bread and serve.

Postscript to this post: If you are wondering why I wrote "chili" and the New York Times wrote "chile," "chili" is AP style for the vegetable and food dish; Chile is the country.

1 comment:

  1. From a Sacramento friend:

    What I do with eggplant...slice with skin on about 3/8 inch. Dip in beaten eggs, press Panko breadcrumbs on both sides, brown in olive oil and season with salt pepper. And put on cookie sheet. Then in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes...delicious and they are creamy in the middle when you bite into them.

    I put them warm on lettuce with some salad dressing. But I bet they would make a great sandwich.