The Literate Chef

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You Can Take it With You

In General Articles on August 5, 2012 at 12:32 PM

When my mother died six years ago, she took her recipe for Baked Eggplant Parmesan with her. As has been noted earlier, Dorothea believed in the oral tradition and hardly ever wrote down her recipes; this was one of them. It was a special Melanzane Parmigiana, in that it was neither breaded, nor floured and it contained hard-boiled eggs.  I remember it being tangy and delicious, tasting like no other “eggplant parm” and even better served cold. Her granddaughters remember it too, and they miss it and miss her as well.

So, recently, I tried to recreate Melanzane Parmigiana alla Dorothea. Mom used a basic tomato sauce with her eggplant parmesan, probably the old tried and true Del Monte Tomato Sauce doctored up. I decided to use Silver Palate’s San Marzano Marinara Sauce, doctored up. I also used the smaller Italian eggplants rather than the larger American ones, as they are less bitter. And of course, since fresh mozzarella is so readily available in almost any supermarket these days, and even on-line, I used that instead of the packaged, rubbery type. I also used freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, rather than Locatelli-Romano, which she undoubtedly used.

The end result was very good, but not quite hers! Served cold, with a loaf of crusty, Italian bread it was delicious, but still not the way it was remembered. Had my memory failed me? Had I mythologized that baked eggplant, and tasted in my mind something other than the reality of the dish? My older daughter assured me that no, while my “re-creation” was very good, it was “not Grandma’s, it didn’t have that tang.”

Back to the drawing boards! Next time, I will try a little less tomato sauce (my attempt was a little too soupy), more hard-boiled egg and maybe Locatelli-Romano, instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano. In the meantime by all means follow this recipe, or make the foregoing adjustments, I can assure you that you will love it, either way. As for me, I will continue to seek that elusive Baked Eggplant Parmesan of happy memory. Maybe mom will somehow communicate the secret to me, since she did take it with her.

Melanzane Parmigiana alla Dorothea (Grandma’s Baked Eggplant Parmesan)

In Recipes, Vegetables on August 5, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Melanzane Parmigiana


2 & ½ lbs. small Italian Eggplants, about 4
1 & ¾ lbs. fresh unsalted Mozzarella, sliced
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 25oz. (wt.) jars of Silver Palate San Marzano Marinara Sauce
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
A roll of paper towels


A day in advance
1.    Rinse, dry and slice the eggplants in half horizontally, in order to work with a flat surface. Slice each half lengthwise again, as thinly as possible, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Discard the two outermost (top) slices, which are all skin.
2.    Stand a colander in a wide shallow bowl and layer the sliced eggplant in it, sprinkling kosher salt on each layer. Place a paper towel over the last layer and place a heavy weight on top. Leave to stand overnight. (This process removes most of the liquid from the eggplant, thereby making it easier to fry and use less oil.)

The next day
3.    Remove eggplant slices from the colander and layer on paper towels to absorb remaining liquid.
4.    In the meantime prepare the sauce: add 4 tbsp. of olive oil to a 3 qt. pot. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent, stir in the oregano and add the Marinara Sauce. Heat on high for 5  minutes, and add the basil at the end.

Frying the Eggplant

5.    Heat 2 tbsps. of oil in a large non-stick pan. In small batches, being careful to not overcrowd the pan, add the eggplant slices and sauté on medium heat, turning frequently for several minutes, until a light golden brown on both sides. Place cooked eggplant on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Continue until all of the eggplant is fried, adding more olive oil tom the pan, as necessary.

What it should look like when fried

6.    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
7.    In a 9.5 by 13 inch non-reactive baking dish, spread two ladles of sauce on the bottom. Add a layer of eggplant; next, layer half of the sliced hard-boiled eggs, and then top with 1/3 of the mozzarella.
8.    Repeat step 7, sauce, eggplant, egg, and mozzarella. At this point all of the eggplant and hard-boiled egg should be used.
9.    Spread sauce over it again, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and top with remaining mozzarella.
10.    Place pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
11.    Remove and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and serve cold with a loaf of crusty Italian bread. Mangia!

Please see You Can Take it With You

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