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Baked Eggplant Parmesan (with Homemade Sauce)

September 19th, 2010

Yep.  You gotta read this to get the recipe.  I know.  I suck.  You’ll live.  <3

I hear no self-respecting Italian person starts homemade spaghetti sauce with canned tomatoes.

Good thing M and I aren’t Italian.  I’m Swedish and Native American.  He’s German and English.  And we start our spaghetti sauce with canned tomatoes.  Sometimes whole peeled, and sometimes diced.  I think once we even used crushed because that’s what we had. 

I guess, technically, our sauce starts with onions, peppers and garlic sautéing in a pan.  M made a double batch tonight, so that’s at least an onion and a half, diced, though I’d have used two.  A pepper and a half (we used orange and yellow), diced.  And knowing Him, probably almost two heads (yes, heads) of garlic.  If I were making it, I’d have ground the Country Herbs (a grinder we bought in the spice section of ALDI – it includes coarse sea salt, rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, mint, sage and thyme), and the Italian Herbs (a shaker with marjoram, basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary), and the garlic salt (What can I say? We like garlic.  Pace yourself, though.  Taste it before adding it.  Make sure you think you need it.  Our tastebuds are, like… spoiled rotten, cause I always use a lot of spices.) to the onions and garlic while they sautéed.  M may or may not have done that.  Often, He adds the spices when He adds the sauce.  I find that, usually, adding the spices to the onions allows them to come to their full flavor quicker, and I have to simmer less.  Tonight, though, with our combined efforts, however M chose to do it, the sauce was perfect.  Perfect.

Sometimes we caramelize the onions, peppers and garlic.  Tonight, they were just barely done.  Which turned out perfect, because even after baking, they were sort of crunchy.  I love for a dish like this to have a bit of texture.

When they’re ready, add two (12 oz, maybe? I’m not digging through the garbage for this.) cans of diced tomatoes, and six 8oz cans of tomato sauce.

M fried up some ground Italian sausage and added that to the sauce.  Half a pound, if memory serves.  But it’s totally not necessary.

The bay leaves definitely get added when the sauce does.  And you can soak them in water till they’re rehydrated if you want, but you don’t have to.  And throw in a bit of sugar, too.  I usually start with two teaspoons, but that’s for a single batch.  Just start small, taste it, then add more if you need it.

After it simmers a little, add two cans of tomato paste to thicken it a bit.  And let simmer till you feel like making the eggplant parm.

There’s just two of us, and I only used one eggplant of pretty decent size.  I cut the top and bottom off, and peeled the whole thing.  Then I sliced it into quarter inch slices along the width.  I mixed half a cup plain bread crumbs (We prefer Panko, but neither ALDi, nore the corner store carry them.), half a cup parmesan cheese, and somewhere between a quarter and half cup of flour with the aforementioned Country herbs, and a little garlic salt (Seriously… not much at all.  Thanks to the amazingly perfect sauce, your batter doesn’t need to have much flavor at all.).  In another bowl, mix an eighth of a cup of lemon juice, and one large egg.  Dip the slices into the egg mixture, and then roll them in the batter, and set them aside while the oil heats (or, if you’re as impatient as I am, heat the oil while you batter the eggplant).  If you want a thicker crust, double the batter, and egg mixture, and alternate between each (egg, breadcrumbs, egg, breadcrumbs).  I was pretty much out of both by the time I was finished battering the eggplant slices the first time, and went for the thinner crust.

Heat enough oil to fry the eggplant slices, 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Then layer the dish.  Start with a thin layer of sauce.  Then a layer of fried eggplant.  Then more sauce.  Then parmesan cheese.  Then mozzarella.  Then fried eggplant, until you’re out of eggplant.  Top it with sauce and parmesan, and bake at 350°F for fifteen minutes, top with mozzarella, and bake for another fifteen.  And voila.  The best eggplant parm you’ve ever tasted.  Hands down.

Edited to add: This made six heaping servings, and should serve 3-6 people with no problem, though there may not be leftovers.

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