Simone Appetit: Kitty’s ‘complete’ eggplant Parmesan
I say “complete” because Kitty is one of those cooks who, when sharing a recipe with you, inevitably leaves out a couple of ingredients. She does not do this on purpose — Kitty just works her kitchen like a true chef and, like a true chef, just throws in things she thinks everyone should already know.
“Of course you put flour on your eggplant before the egg wash,” she said to me the last time I made her eggplant Parmesan and it flopped. I didn’t want to get into it and point out she never even mentioned an egg wash. This time around, Simone Appetit was taking no chances.
I invited her over to my house, my kitchen, my turf, to show me once and for all how she creates this masterpiece. And it is a masterpiece — the best eggplant Parmesan I have had, ever. Period. End of story.
Well, not quite. I really had to follow her around, yellow legal tablet and pen in hand, to nail it down. Kitty is a sneaky one. I would say, “Now what are you doing?” and she would say, “Duh. I am putting Parmesan in with the breadcrumbs.”
Duh. Again, this is not intentional, she just assumes we all cook as well as she does. I worked with the Los Angeles Times test kitchen on a few occasions. Apparently the reason the paper has a test kitchen is to re-create the recipes submitted by famous chefs and ensure they did not leave out a key ingredient in an effort to hold on to their culinary secret weapons.
These chefs did it all the time! Like I am not going to go the Chez X because I finally know how to make Chef Pierre’s meatballs. Well, now I know how to make Kitty’s famous eggplant Parmesan and you know what? I am going to share the recipe with you, all ingredients included.
You’ll note some of these ingredients do not have measurements. This is not meant to be cagey. It is simply due to the fact you never really know how much you are going to need exactly, so just have a bunch on hand.
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1⁄8 inch rounds
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese in the green shaker container
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 cups marinara or spaghetti sauce (I went with Paul Newman’s Tomato and Basil)
1 cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed lightly in olive oil and then set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of 9” x 13” baking dish with about 3/4 cups of your marinara sauce and keep pan within reach. Get out two large plates and cover one with about 1/2 cup of flour. Dust each side of each eggplant round with flour (a quick dip in the flour) and set aside on second plate.
Get out a very large skillet and heat about 1⁄3 cup of olive oil over medium/high heat — not scorching. While your oil is heating, whisk together eggs in a shallow dish, like a pie pan. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and whisk again.
Next put your bread crumbs in a shallow dish or large plate and sprinkle on the grated Parmesan. Mix it together with a fork. Now you have your assembly line.
Take one flour dusted eggplant round and dip (quickly) each side in your egg “wash” and then in the bread crumbs (again each side) and then place in heated oil. Do this with as many eggplant slices as your pan will accommodate.
So you dip in egg, dip in crumbs, put in oil and lightly fry on each side until eggplant is somewhat limp, about five minutes max.
Remove each slice as it looks done and place in 9”x13” on top of sauce. Keep doing this until all slices are in pan, in only one layer. If you fill up this pan, start another one. If you run out of eggs — whisk up more. If you need more oil in the skillet, add it.
Next top the eggplant with some of the shredded Parmesan (enough to cover the eggplant) add a layer of tomato sauce and top this with the mushrooms. Cover this with a layer of mozzarella. Top this layer with the rest of the tomato sauce, then all that remains of both cheeses.
Bake covered with foil for 40 minutes then remove foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at firstname.lastname@example.org.