Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Postpartum Christmas

Long time no post! I know, I know! As you might have guessed by now, the little man with an apron was born. He came home Christmas morning, and is happy, healthy, and HUNGRY!

We opened Christmas presents after we got home from the hospital, but not surprisingly the presents were pretty underwhelming compared to coming home with our baby. Parenthood is kind of like becoming a vampire. I spend a lot of time awake in the night; I'm aware that a very familiar part of my life is now over; but I know that this new state of being has given me some super powers. I am far more efficient now. I was never one for sitting around or not keeping busy before, but now I'm a whirlwind of errand-running, chore completing, home appliance repairing, and diaper changing.

In terms of my foodie life, I continue to need to eat, and I continue to insist on eating good things. So, while I haven't had a chance to bake any more bread, I have made about 5 gallons of sauce, roasted a turkey for (a day late) Christmas dinner, and churned out a steady supply of soup for the Mrs. and my Grandma, who, with 8 siblings and 2 children of her own, has plenty of experience and energy to help us get situated.

I got some pretty cool food related presents, among them a pizza stone, 8" and 6" cast iron skillets, a pasta maker, and two cookbooks, Momofuku and Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game. I'm really pumped try out some Momofuku dishes, and I'll be sure to share pictures and recipes when I do. Admittedly, a book about butchering will cover a lot of things that don't come up for me. For instance, I will likely not slaughter any cattle in my suburban apartment. But I wanted the book to learn about how meat is prepared. Plus there is a recipe for venison pate in there that I'm looking forward to trying.

Last, I have a recipe to share. It's an eggplant parmesan that I've become locally famous for. And by "locally famous" I mean by my friends and family. I like it because if you ever have to deal with vegetarians and omnivores at the same dinner table, this is something that you can serve to everyone without complaint.

As a general rule, I don't like eggplant parm. I find it starchy, difficult to digest, and not particularly tasty whenever I've had it. But this is different. The recipe is my own concoction, developed in an effort to impress my then girlfriend, now wife. She used to be a vegetarian, and suggested that I make eggplant parm. Rather than saying that I didn't like it and didn't know how to make it, I went and did it. It turned out better than anyone else's that I've had.

I say this is my recipe, but it is not as though the ingredients are non-traditional in any way. I think it is the approach to the eggplant that makes it really good.

Before you start though, just a note about the sauce. While I usually make homemade sauce for my eggplant parm, for the most part you can get away with a decent jar sauce. If you do choose to make your own, you'll want to make it a consistency that is similar to store bought. Don't make your sauce too watery, and don't make it too chunky, otherwise the sauce somewhat distracts from the eggplant/cheese interaction. In a bowl of spaghetti, the sauce is the star, but in a plate of eggplant parm, the sauce is a supporting character, and the eggplant and cheese are the stars.

Family-style Eggplant Parmesan

1 large eggplant
About 2-3 quarts of spaghetti sauce
olive oil
canola oil
2 cups of breadcrumbs
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 lb. mozzarella cheese


Skin the eggplant and slice the eggplant longways as thinly as possible. I can't stress how important it is that the eggplant be sliced very thin. That's what makes my eggplant good. In a large bowl, mix the eggs and milk and whisk. Coat the eggplant slices in the egg wash and then coat the eggplant in breadcrumbs by tossing each slice individually in a large bowl of breadcrumbs. You might also add some dried basil and oregano to the breadcrumbs. Be sure to give each eggplant slice individual attention by coating with egg wash, then immediately coating with breadcrumbs. I usually bread the eggplant as space becomes available in the pan, rather than all at once.

Heat a large skillet (or two) on medium heat, add one part olive oil, one part canola oil. Use enough oil to moisten each eggplant slice, but not so much that you're deep frying the eggplant. Be aware that eggplant absorbs liquids, so the eggplant will suck up the oil. This softens the eggplant up, but be careful not to keep too much oil in the pan at once. You'll probably have to add more oil for every five eggplant slices.

Fry eggplant in skillet until golden brown, taking care not to burn the breadcrumbs. While frying the eggplant, preheat the oven for 300 degrees. Put cooked eggplant slices in a large casserole, laying them out in a layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is covered in a whole layer of eggplant, cover the eggplant with sauce, then cover the sauce with some of the Parmesan cheese, then apply sliced mozzarella cheese on top. Add another layer of eggplant slices on top and repeat until you either run out of eggplant or space in your casserole. When completely assembled, cover in foil and put it in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, long enough to melt all of mozzarella cheese. Serve.

The important thing about the treatment of the eggplant is that you want to really break the eggplant down. You slice it thin, fry it thoroughly, then bake it. By the time you eat the eggplant, you get the flavor of the eggplant, without any of the starchy-ness.


  1. Congratulations on the arrival of the little man with an apron!

    That's an interesting recipe, we're going to give it a try. Debbie and I like eggplant parmesan, but the slimy chunks of eggplant can be less than appealing. Slicing thin sounds like a great idea.

  2. Thanks Chuck. Let me know how it turns out.

  3. I made the eggplant recipe last night. It was excellent! Although I could've just eaten the entire plate of eggplant slices after I fried them. They were so tasty on their own with a dash of salt!