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Eggplant Parmigiana

November 28, 2010 No Comments

~ Melanzane alla parmigiana~

Have you heard of the website called ‘parma.com.au‘. It is a site dedicated to the best chicken parmigianas in Australia, voted by parma loving Aussies.

There are people out there, and the ones I know shall remain nameless, that are fanatical about their chicken parmas! They travel high and low in search of the best chicken parmigiana. This site is for those wishing to rate and share their experience with others. Naturally you can imagine if there are people that are consumed by the idea of a great Parma, there are going to be standards that Parmas need to adhere to in order to make it onto the Top 10 Parma list. Understandably this is a very serious process. Just to give you an idea of the seriousness of the matter, here are the parma.com.au 10 Commandments called ‘Crimes against chips’. I am not sure what the punishment is for breaking one of these commandments but I am guessing it would be a bad review on ‘parma.com.au’.

By this stage you might be thinking this is all pretty funny but if you think about it, perhaps they are onto something. I really do hate it when my nice crispy chips became a serving plate for a salad or a chicken parma, for that matter. How dare they… soggy chips are just not my thing.

I love the passion and enthusiasm that these parma loving Aussies bring to the search for the best parma in OZ. However I wonder if they realise that they are eating Chicken parmigianas under false pretenses? After many conversations with some of these enthusiasts I discovered that some believe that a Chicken Parmigiana is a traditional Italian dish. Unfortunately, Chicken Parmigiana is not a traditional Italian dish but is a variation of one. The traditional Southern Italian dish called, La Parmigiana or Melanzane alla parmigiana has absolutely no chicken. It is made of layers of shallow fried eggplant, napoletana sauce and mozzarella cheese which is then baked in the oven. Chicken Parmigiana is something that has evolved from this original dish around the world.

I won’t claim to know how to cook the best Chicken Parmigiana in Australia, but I do know how to cook a pretty good Eggplant Parmigiana – The Italian way :)

Ingredients:

  • Homemade Napoletana Sauce
  • 2 large eggplants
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 250 g Shredded Mozzarella cheese (I didn’t weigh it, but I am guessing that’s all you will need. Shred more if need be)
  • Grated Parmigiano

How to:

Frying the eggplant –

  1. First you need to prepare the eggplant. Slice the eggplant vertically and  salt*. Rub salt on each slice, and sit in a collider and allow water to be draw from the eggplant for about 1 hr. Don’t worry about using lots of salt here, some of the salt runs off during purging. If the eggplant is nice and fresh you might not need to do this but I have noticed I always get a better result when I salt them regardless of freshness. Once the eggplant has finished purging water squeeze each piece in your hands to draw out water and dry thoroughly with dry paper towel. Drying it well is an important step.
  2. Make batter out of the plain flour, water and salt. Don’t make it too thick, make it runny. Basically if the batter is dense it will be a thick covering once fried, if it is runny, it will be a nice, light batter, which is what we want.
  3. You probably want about 2 cm of oil in your fry pan, heat the oil to about 170°C. You can test if oil is ready by putting a little batter in it, if it starts to bubble, it is ready.
  4. Dip each piece of eggplant into batter and place in oil, wait until it starts to become golden and turn over. As each piece is ready, place them onto a plate lined with paper towel, this will help absorb access oil. A little tip here, as you remove a piece of eggplant, replace with a new piece. This will stop the oil temperature changing too much during the cooking process. You will need to monitor the oil temperature and moderate the flame accordingly.

Assembling the Parmigiana –

  1. Get 1 or 2 baking dishes (depending on size), put some napoletana sauce on the base, then one layer of eggplant, then layer mozzarella on top of eggplant, then napoletana sauce on the mozzarella and continue until you hit the tip of the baking dish, make sure mozzarella is the last layer on the top. At this point I also grate some Parmigiano on top of the mozzarella.
  2. Cover with foil and cook at 180°C for 45 mins.

Buon Appetito

*What does salting do? Salting the eggplant draws out any bitterness and reduces any air pockets, which will reduce access oil being absorbed by the eggplant while frying.

Tags: , , Baking, Eggplant Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmigiana, Vegetables

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