I'm always on the look out for new ideas and new ways to do old things, I was intrigued by this version of a classic dish found in Karen Martini's "Where the Heart is". The three previous recipes from this cookbook have all turned out a treat and have already reappeared in various forms on the dinner table.
Now this recipe I was a bit unsure of. You see in a traditional Eggplant Parmigiana you would make a béchamel (a white sauce) but Karen uses a blend of mascarpone and anchovies. It was probably the sound of my arteries clogging that had me a little on edge. Would the result just be too rich? Would it really be that much better than the traditional route? The only way to find out was to make it - oh, the things I put myself through for the sake of cooking!
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut lengthways into ½cm (0.2 inch) slices.
110 grams plain flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten with 3 tablespoons water
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
olive oil, for frying
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups tomato passata
80 grams grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
200 grams Mascarpone
4 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
Fontina cheese, grated
4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves picked
2 sprigs basil, leaves picked
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, extra
The first part of this recipe is to crumb the eggplant slices. It's a bit unusual but it actually stops the eggplant from disintegrating while the parmigiana is cooking. It makes the eggplant a more important player in the dish.
Dust the slices of eggplant in flour, then dip in the egg before placing in the breadcrumbs. This does take a bit of time.
Once all the slices are done, it's time to cook them.
Shallow fry them in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat - give them about 1-2 minutes on each side. Place them onto paper towels to remove any excess oil.
When they are all cooked, we can now assemble the dish.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/338°F.
Take your deep sided oven proof dish and add 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Swirl it around to cover the base and sides.
Add a quarter of the tomato passata to the dish, sprinkle over with 3 tablespoons of grated parmigiano.
Place the mascarpone, anchovy and remaining grated parmigiano into a bowl and stir well to combine.
Place a layer of eggplant slices over the base of the dish. Spoon over with another quarter of the passata, top with some grated Fontina and a few dollops of the mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle with a third of the basil and oregano leaves and a little ground black pepper.
Repeat this layering process, finishing with the cheese and herbs.
Please note that the number of layers will depend on the size of your eggplants and the size of your dish. In this case I was able to make four layers. If you can only make three then change the proportions to thirds, similarly if you make two layers, use halves.
Drizzle with a little more of the extra virgin olive oil and I like to also add another sprinkling of the grated parmigiano.
Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes before removing the foil and baking for another 15 or until it's golden and bubbling.
It is quite a beautiful dish to behold - the aromas are wonderful, the basil and oregano really come through.
It's obvious that this is a rich dish and quite hearty so I would suggest serving it with a simple green salad and some crusty bread is a must to soak up the beautiful sauce.
Returning to the original question - is it "better" than béchamel? I think on it's own it's a wonderful version of Eggplant Parmigiana - I would definitely use the crumbing method in future but I would probably, for everyday cooking, use the béchamel sauce...and leave the mascarpone for a tiramisu dessert!
Tagged with Savoury Food