|1 medium-large eggplant
|1 loaf good rustic bread||2 Tbl butter|
|3 cloves garlic||1 large hot Italian sausage (~1/3 lb)|
|10 oz. sliced white mushrooms||1/4 cup red wine|
|2 cups good chewy spaghetti sauce (see note)||2 eggs|
|~6 oz. shredded mozzarella||~1-2 oz. finely grated parmesan|
|~2 oz. pasta per person|
Preheat the oven to 350.
Peel the eggplant, and slice into
discs about 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick. Salt liberally on both sides,
and place in a single layer in colander to drain. Let sit 1 hour,
flipping halfway through.
While the eggplant drains, cut 4-6
large slices of the bread; if the bread is crusty, remove crusts.
Tear into large pieces. Place in food processor and pulse
about ten times, until the bread is broken down into large crumbs.
Melt butter in saucepan; crush garlic into that, and cook very
briefly. Drizzle butter and garlic over crumbs, pulsing a few
more times to incorporate. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking
sheet and place in oven. Cook, turning gently every five minutes,
until crumbs are dry, crunchy and starting to brown, about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, and let cool.
Remove the sausage from its
casing, and fry with a little oil until cooked and a little browned;
remove from skillet. Fry mushrooms in the sausage grease and a
little more oil, until they have given up all their liquid and gotten a
bit dried and browed; remove from skillet. Deglaze the skillet
with wine and reduce; add spaghetti sauce and incorporate, reducing and
thickening sauce a bit if needed. (This does well with our
ultra-thick homemade sauce; the wine loosens it slightly.)
eggplant has drained thoroughly, rinse off the salt on both sides; pat
dry with paper towels. With another layer of paper towels, press
the eggplant between two cookie sheets, weighted on top, for about ten
minutes, to make sure they are good and dry.
slices in egg and then bread crumbs. If the crumbs don't adhere,
layer a few under and over the slices. (They don't really have to
be glued on -- they're just there for texture.) Layer eggplant in
casserole with sausage, mushrooms, sauce and mozzarella, in 2-3 layers.
Top with a final layer of mozzarella, and a good layer of
parmesan on top.
Bake until top is thoroughly browned, about
45-50 minutes. Towards the end of that time, cook the pasta, and
Notes and Variations
Possibly the best and most complicated recipe I've ever come up with on
a pure basis of "this oughtta work". Really excellent, but
requires about 1.5 hours of prep, and then an hour of baking.
original version of this had only one cup of ultra-thick spaghetti
sauce: this was very tasty (and the cheese crusted magnificently in the
casserole) but was a tad dry, so two cups is probably ideal. Note
that it is not intended to be swimming in sauce, though: the whole
point here is that you get the crunch of the crumbs and the chewiness
of the mozzarella, not a soup of tomato and eggplant. If not
served with pasta, you might just leave it with the single cup of
sauce, letting the cheese brown on the bottom. And for
heaven's sake, don't go to this much work and then pour on a generic
The homemade bread crumbs are crucial to the
result: the crunch they provide adds texture (as well as a subtle
garlic undertone). It is possible that panko might work, but
conventional bread crumbs wouldn't -- the "crumbs" should be relatively
large and crunchy. It's likely that the dreging in egg could be
omitted, in favor of simply layering the crumbs into the dish.
spiciness of the sausage is an important component of the flavor.
You could substitute for it (with a veggie or turkey sausage),
but compensate if necessary by adding a bit of extra spice to the sauce.
Peeling the eggplant is important, to avoid the tough rinds in the end result. Draining and drying it thoroughly
is deathly important, so the dish doesn't get soggy. (You
probably don't have to use kosher salt, but I've been watching Good
Eats for enough years that it's automatic.)
I had originally
expected to broil this at the end, but it wasn't necessary: the cheese
should eventually brown if you bake it long enough, and that gives the
eggplant time to soften.
Inspired by an absolutely lousy eggplant parmesan that I had at
Bertucci's on Date Night: flavorless, soggy eggplant with rinds so
tough that I needed a sharp knife to get through them, and a generic
tomato sauce that added nothing to it. That left me craving a
*good* eggplant parm, and I gradually convinced myself (correctly) that
I could come up with a vastly better interpretation, which I did for
dinner on Sunday.
to Cooks' Illustrated, from whom I got some of the component techniques
(especially the salting, draining and pressing of the eggplant, and the
concept of the homemade bread crumbs).