Saturday, January 29, 2011

Give Eggplant Parmesan a Chinese spin

Almost two years ago I tried my hand at Eggplant Parmesan for the first time, and I'm not going to say it was a disaster, but considering that I haven't tried it since, you can be sure it wasn't a very fulfilling experience.

But after making P.F. Mai Ling's Spicy Eggplant with Chicken a couple too many times in a row, I decided to give Eggplant Parmesan another try so I could expand my eggplant repertoire to more than one dish.

In addition to expanding my eggplant repertoire, I'm also expanding my eggplant usage, this time using Chinese eggplant instead of the bigger, darker eggplant you find in typical grocery stores. In addition to having thinner skin, which I'm not sure makes a difference, Chinese eggplant also offers a little more flexibility with how the dish is made.

Last time I followed the recipe perfectly and cut the eggplant into rounds, which resulted in a lot more pieces to fry and a somewhat difficult dish to serve. But because the Chinese eggplant are so much smaller, I cut each eggplant into four long slices lengthwise, each about 1/3-inch thick. They barely fit on the plates I used for all of the coatings, so the kitchen was still a disaster. But because the slices fit perfectly in my 10-by-14-inch Le Creuset, the dish turned out much more beautiful and way easier to cook, serve and eat. Worth the work for sure this time!

This recipe is adapted from Gourmet's Eggplant Parmesan.

Chinese Eggplant Parmesan
2 lbs. Chinese eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes
2 14-oz. cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes
3 T. olive oil plus more for frying
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 t. dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 cups panko
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb. chilled fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Place the eggplant on racks hanging over the sink and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until moderately chunky. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, add 3 T. olive oil, then stir in garlic and dried pepper flakes and cook until fragrant but not burnt, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. black pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set up your work station. On one large plate, mix flour with 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. black pepper. On a second, mix the four eggs. And on a third plate, mix the panko with 1/3 c. Parmesan.

Prepare a cookie sheet with paper towels for the eggplant. Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, then coat with egg, and lastly cover with the panko mixture. Place about 3 prepared eggplant slices in the skillet at a time and cook each side until browned, about 6 minutes per batch.

Transfer cooked eggplant to prepared cookie sheet and continue until all eggplant is cooked.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble, place 1 c. of sauce on the bottom of a 10-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/3 of the eggplant, 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat twice, then top with remaining 1/3 c. Parmesan.

Cook uncovered for 35-40 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is golden. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. It will be piping hot!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Curry Potatoes overwhelm Mom's 'potluck'

After we got back from Idaho, we celebrated a belated Christmas with the other fam that ended up being a potluck because Mom was so tired from the holidays. She made homemade potstickers, I brought tamales from Garza Mexican Foods and Stephen brought a salad, and Mom was so pleased with the meal that she wanted to make the potluck a new family tradition.

So this week I was asked to bring a curry to go with her Barbecue Steak (yes, I'm aware curry doesn't really go with tri-tip, but I do what I'm told!), but now that the holidays are over and Mom's back in the kitchen, my contribution ended up being about the second or possibly even third dish too many. Maybe we'll just stick with the potluck theme around the holidays, but honestly, none of us were complaining:

Curry Potatoes with Chicken
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in bite-sized chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. salt
Dash freshly ground pepper
1-2 T. canola oil
Half a yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut in bite-sized chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can coconut milk
2-3 T. curry powder
Salt to taste

Gently mix chicken breast chunks, garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper, then let marinate for about 2 hours.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1 T. oil, then saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Add more oil if needed, then cook chicken until no more pink is remaining, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in potatoes, carrots, reserved onions, coconut milk, curry and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low until done, about 30-45 minutes. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taco Omelet for dinner

I know I'm not alone in thinking that sometimes, eggs and other common breakfast fare are just too rich for the morning, not to mention that around the holidays the morning hours can be a bit rough.

Which is why I allow breakfast to make a regular appearance on the dinner table, especially since I'm still trying to master the Calphalon pans that I bought myself for Christmas.

Looks like I have the omelet down, eh? Yes, she's a beaut, and I didn't even have to use any grease in the pan, which was definitely a good thing since it was filled with leftover taco meat from our New Year's Eve Mexican fiesta.

I also added a bunch of spinach that I first blanched in about an inch of salted water until it was wilted (about a minute), then quickly rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking. While chopping the spinach and 2 scallions, I heated about 1/2 c. of leftover taco meat in a pan, then added the spinach and the white and light green parts of the scallions to heat them through.

That made enough filling for two very full 2- to 3-egg omelets, and don't forget to add a little cheddar cheese. Top them with sour cream, hot sauce and the green parts of the scallions, and you've got a breakfast for dinner (or for breakfast!).