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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

 

Although eggplant parmesan is one of the most widespread recipes in the United States, it was originally created in all the regions of Southern Italy. Some believe it is Sicilian, while others claim that it comes from Naples or Parma. There are even contradicting theories on the origins of the name of the dish. People make the obvious connection with the city of Parma, or at least with Parmigiano Reggiano, but there is also a theory that the name comes from the Sicilian term "parmiciana", which refers to the wooden blinds that are layered when closed—just like the layers of eggplant in the dish.

What is certain, however, is that the first recipe for eggplant parmesan was written by Vincenzo Corrado, the personal cook to various noble Neapolitan families between the 18th and 19th centuries and also the author of Il Cuoco Galante.

In his recipe, Corrado suggests layering the eggplant; however, the first recipe that is most similar to how the dish is made today was written by Ippolito Cavalcanti in his book Cucina Teorica-Pratica, in which he suggests alternating the layers of eggplant with cheese and tomato. In the immigrant’s interpretation here in our state, eggplant is also coated with bread crumbs which makes it much thicker and heavier. In the photo above, the dish has been prepared in individual portions.

Ingredients

Servings: 4

•  1 lb eggplant

•  3 oz all-purpose flour

•  2 eggs, large

•  3 cups tomato sauce (favorite recipe)

•  4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese

•  4 oz. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

•  4 oz. sweet pork sausage, fresh

•  frying oil (vegetable) to taste

•  salt to taste

Preparation

Wash and trim the eggplants, then slice finely. Place slices in a pasta strainer, allowing them to release excess moisture for 20 minutes.

In a flat-bottomed bowl, beat the eggs. Dip the eggplant slices in the eggs and then immediately cover them in flour. Make sure that the flour is spread evenly across each slice.

Fry the eggplant in a pan with oil reaching a 300F.temperature. Be sure that the slices are completely submerged in the oil. When golden, remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

Use the tip of a knife to make a small incision in the sausage casing, then remove the casing entirely and dice the meat. While the eggplant cools, place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of a baking dish.

Cover with a layer of tomato sauce, then with a layer of eggplant. Then add a portion of the diced mozzarella and sausage. Drizzle with a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce and then cover with grated parmesan. Cover with another layer of eggplant and continue layering the ingredients as before, until they run out. Finish with a layer of eggplant and spread tomato sauce on top.

Garnish with grated parmesan and bake in a 400°F oven for about 30 minutes or until the edges are crisp.

Remove from the oven and let rest. Serve room temperature or cold.

 

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/

 

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