The Literate Chef

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.

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