Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eggplant Parmigiana with Italian Sausage Marinara

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So Eggplant Parmigiana is one of those dishes that you make when you really love someone.  Why?  Because honestly, once you are committed to making it, you should plan on being in the kitchen a while.  Is it hard?  Nope.  Just multi-step.  That said, it is an amazingly delicious dish that anyone would be proud to serve - whether to family, guests, or even just your sweetheart.  Also, you could break this into several make-ahead steps and just assemble and bake at the end.  I guess my point is... It's awesome, and you should try it!  And don't worry about all the steps, because you know I'm gonna walk you through it each step of the way!!!  Not only that, but I'll discuss steps for making this as individual servings as well as "family style."  So stick with me!

Oh - and what, you may ask, makes my recipe different from the rest?  Well for one, this is usually a vegetarian dish.  But this time, I'm going to be making it with an Italian sausage marinara.  I happened to be making this for my parents; and I knew that going meatless was not going to be an option for the response I was hoping for.  There are just some folks out there (usually men, lets face it) who prefer having some meat in the meal.  If you prefer a meatless version, by all means, omit the meat.  My favorite thing about cooking is being able to control the dish.

So here's what I'm going to do:  Ingredients, Step-by-Step tutorial, then written directions.  You can also Click Here for a Printable Recipe.

Ingredients:                                  
Italian Sausage Marinara - 
  • 2 onions, diced fine
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Kosher salt - generous
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 (28 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
Eggplant - 
  • 1 large eggplant, firm and heavy
  • generous kosher salt for pulling out the bitterness
  • breading station # 1:
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • breading station # 2:
    •  2 large eggs
    • 3 Tbsp buttermilk (you can use regular milk if you prefer)
    • kosher salt and cracked black pepper 
  • breading station # 3:
    • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
    • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
    • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, rough chopped
  • canola or peanut oil for frying 
  • 6 slices provolone cheese
  • a generous hand full of grated Parmigiano reggiano 
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons
Step-by-Step:
I put the marinara on first, because I think one of the keys to a good marinara is giving it time to just simmer a lonnnnng time. I honestly think that the longer it cooks, the better the flavors marry together.  Although this is not necessary, I do think it improves the tastes.  The other thing is that I suggest you season at each step.  We are building the flavors here.  This marinara makes more sauce than you will probably need.  But it freezes great, and has a ton of uses later, so you may as well!

To a heavy pot, add the extra virgin olive oil.
1/4 cup EVOO
Add the chopped onions and garlic to the oil and let them start cooking down.
2 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
Add in a generous pinch of kosher salt. 
kosher salt
Add in the red pepper flakes.
I used 1 Tbsp.  I thought it was going to be too spicy, but in the end, it worked out just right.  But you can try less if you think this might be too much.  You can always add more later.
Add in the sugar.  This is not enough to make the sauce "sweet."  But the addition of the sugar will help cut the acid from the tomatoes.
2 Tbsp sugar
Add in the whole canned tomatoes.  Whole tomatoes are held to a higher standard in the canning process than diced tomatoes (which are basically left over pieces and parts); so when you use whole tomatoes, you can be confident that these were the best.
3 (28 oz) cans whole canned tomatoes.
Add your dried seasonings.
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
You can either start salting the eggplant now, or go ahead and get your Italian sausage browning.  For the sake of having all of the marinara directions in one spot, I will show this first.

Either use ground Italian sausage, or if you can only find the ones in the casings, take them out of the casings.  Italian sausage is available in a variety of heat levels.  I am using the Mild version.
1 pound milk Italian sausage
 Crumble the sausage as it browns, then add it to the simmering marinara.
Now just let all of that bubble and simmer and fill the house with the smells of an Italian villa!!

Let's move on to the eggplant.  You can skip this step if you absolutely must, but eggplant can be bitter sometimes, and salting them draws this out.  

Cut the eggplant into 1/2 " slices.  Generously salt both sides and allow them to sit for an hour.  I am putting them on a paper towel lined baking sheet because a lot of water will come out of them.
Kosher salt
After an hour, this is what you will see.
So now you will want to rinse all that salt off of the eggplant thoroughly.  Then just allow them to drain, pat them dry and set them on paper towels.
Now begin to prepare your breading stations:

Station 1 - The flour station.  Mix flour, salt and pepper.
1/2 cup flour
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
 Station 2 - The egg station.  Mix eggs, buttermilk, salt, and pepper.
2 eggs, 3 Tbsp buttermilk
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
Station 3 - The seasoned breadcrumbs.  Mix bread crumbs, oregano, and thyme.
2 cups Italian bread crumbs

1 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, rough chopped
Are you ready?  Here we go!!!  Dip both sides of your eggplant rounds into each station... flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  Then set them somewhere to hang out while you get your oil hot.
flour station
egg station
coat in bread crumbs, then let them sit for a bit.
You will need enough oil to provide about 2 inches depth.  Preferably use a pot that is very heavy and holds heat well - like a black iron pot.  You want the oil to be around 350 - 365 degrees F.  I have a candy thermometer clipped to the pot so I can keep it at this temp.

Add about 3 three breaded eggplant rounds per "batch."  You don't want to crowd the pan, as it will drop the oil temperature too much.  They will only need a couple of minutes per side until they are golden brown and gorgeous.

When you take them out, set them on a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain, and sprinkle with salt if you'd like.
Gorgeous, aren't they?!

Assembly!
The same steps will apply here whether you are making these as individual servings, or "family style."  First, put a little of the marinara in the bottom of a baking dish that you have prepared with a little cooking spray.  Then, layer in the following order:
       eggplant - provolone - Parmigiano reggiano - basil ribbons - mozzarella.

For the family style casserole, just keep making layers.  I think I had three complete layers on this day.    For the individual serving, just one layer.
marinara

eggplant rounds
provolone
Parmesan
basil ribbons
mozzarella
Now this little guy is ready for the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and delicious!

 
Now for the casserole version... 

Do the same thing, but repeat for a total of three delicious layers.  Add a layer of that gorgeous marinara in between each layer.





















This one will need to bake a little longer.  Maybe 30 minutes.







When it comes out of the oven, garnish with more fresh basil right before serving.  The heat will wilt the basil down in just a couple of minutes.

So here is the small individual version - just right for serving over a bed of pasta.
And here is the family style version.
So we have delicious layers of the golden brown eggplant, the Italian sausage marinara, gorgeous ribbons of sweet basil, and don't forget the cheese, glorious cheese!!
DELICIOUS! Well worth the wait!!

Written Directions:
1.  Make the marinara.  2.  Salt the eggplant.  3.  Assembly.
1.  Marinara -
To a heavy pot, add the extra virgin olive oil.  Add the chopped onions and garlic to the oil and let them start cooking down.  Add in a generous pinch of kosher salt and red pepper flakes.  Add in the sugar.  Add in the tomatoes.   Add your dried seasonings.  In a separate pot, crumble the sausage as it browns, then add it to the simmering marinara.  Now just let all of that simmer.

2. Eggplant -
Cut the eggplant into 1/2 " slices.  Generously salt both sides and allow them to sit for an hour.  Set them on a paper towel lined baking sheet because a lot of water will come out of them.  After an hour, rinse all that salt off of the eggplant thoroughly.  Then just allow them to drain, pat them dry and set them on paper towels.

Now begin to prepare your breading stations:
Station 1 - The flour station.  Mix flour, salt and pepper.
Station 2 - The egg station.  Mix eggs, buttermilk, salt, and pepper. 
Station 3 - The seasoned breadcrumbs.  Mix bread crumbs, oregano, and thyme.

Dip both sides of your eggplant rounds into each station... flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  Then set them somewhere to hang out while you get your oil hot. You will need enough oil to provide about 2 inches depth.  You want the oil to be around 350 - 365 degrees F.  I have a candy thermometer clipped to the pot so I can keep it at this temp.  Add about 3 three breaded eggplant rounds per "batch."  You don't want to crowd the pan, as it will drop the oil temperature too much.  They will only need a couple of minutes per side until they are golden brown and gorgeous.  When you take them out, set them on a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain, and sprinkle with salt if you'd like.

3. Assembly!
The same steps will apply here whether you are making these as individual servings, or "family style."  First, put a little of the marinara in the bottom of a baking dish that you have prepared with a little cooking spray.  Then, layer in the following order:
       eggplant - provolone - Parmigiano reggiano - basil ribbons - mozzarella.

For the family style casserole, do the same thing, but repeat for a total of three delicious layers.  Add a layer of that gorgeous marinara in between each layer..    For the individual serving, just one layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 - 40 minutes or until brown and bubbly.  The individual ones will take quite a bit less time.  When it comes out of the oven, garnish with more fresh basil right before serving.  The heat will wilt the basil down in just a couple of minutes.

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Crab Rangoons 
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp 
Maple Bacon Green Beans with Slivered Almonds 
Skinny Mexican Pizza 
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5 comments:

  1. Hi There!

    First, let me introduce myself. My name is Amanda Garbutt and I am the Owner & Co-Founder of The Hot Plate (www.thehotplate.com). I found your blog and could not stop drooling over the photos! The Hot Plate is a free community for the hungriest Food Lovers on the web, and I’d love to have you share your recipes with us!

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    Happy Cooking,
    Amanda

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. So happy to hear it! Please come back for more recipes and share the blog with your friends! I love having new readers!! Julie

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  3. July May, one of the best step by step recipes I've seen. Love your blog...will be back. Awesome job........

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