Monday, March 29, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

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Fried eggplant slices coated with tomato sauce, layered with cheese and baked in oven. This is the simplest description of this exotic sounding dish. Yet this simple sounding dish can be such a challenge to make. The thickness of the slice, with skin or without skin, the kind of batter to use, to coat with breadcrumbs or not, the tomato sauce and the type of cheese can all play a very important role in not only how it comes out but how it tastes also.
Eggplant parmesan is a southern Italian dish and there are many versions to the origin of the name. Though many believe that the origin of the dish is due to the use of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, there are still a handful that believe that the name Parmigiana is a corruption of the word Parmiciana, a word from the Sicilian dialect, which refers to slats of wood in a shutter. The dish is so named after the slats, because the eggplant slices overlap each other just like the wooden slats in a shutter.
Irrespective of the controversy, it is a very popular dish the world over with different variations of the same existing, some even involving chicken and veal.
The variation I try does not use breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs made the dish very heavy and I prefer to use a lighter tempura like batter instead.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant, big, cut into thin slices- 1
Mozzarella, sliced - 5-6 slices
Parmesan, grated - 1/2 Cup
Oil - For deep frying

For the batter:
Egg -1
Flour - 1 Cup
Milk - 1/4 Cup
Water - 3/4 Cup
Baking Soda - a Pinch

For tomato sauce:
Olive Oil
Tomatoes, concassed - 1 Kg
Garlic cloves, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped - 1
Basil - 1 tsp
Black pepper, freshly ground - 2 Tsp
Salt - To Taste

1. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and let them rest covered, so that they lose moisture and the bitterness. Leave aside.

2. To Make Tomato Sauce: Heat olive oil in a wok. Add in the onions and saute till they start to turn golden.
3. Add in the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the concassed tomatoes and 1 cup of water.
5. Cook till the sauce starts to turn thick.
6. Add the salt, black pepper powder and basil.
7. Cook for another minute. Take it off flame.

8. To Make Batter: Combine all ingredients for batter.
9. Whisk well till a thick batter forms.
10. Chill for 10-15 minutes.

11. Heat oil in a big wok.
12. Dip the eggplant slices in the batter and deep fry till done.
13. Remove and drain excess oil. Keep aside.
14. Take a baking dish and lightly oil it .
15. Spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Now dip each batter fried eggplant slice in the tomato sauce and add to the baking dish. Make a layer of eggplant slices.
16. Layer with some more tomato sauce and sprinkle the parmesan cheese.
17. Repeat this 3 more times.
18. Add the remaining tomato sauce on top and layer the mozzarella cheese.
19. Bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes.
20. Cut into slices and serve hot.


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