Poe Cooks Reality: Eggplant Parmigiana from Food Network’s “Best Thing…”

While it’s generally well known that I have a very handsome in-house personal-chef-for-life, I too, can combine raw ingredients into something passably edible. Or, at least not poisonous. (I just scoured this website for a picture of me cooking and found nothing. NOTHING. I was sure there was a picture of me stirring a pot somewhere, but no.)

And, now that I work from the spacious Poe Industries World Headquarters (ie: home), I’ve been stepping up and cooking more often.

Truth be told, I tend to lean towards large, stick-to-your-ribs meals that would feed a small yet hungry army, with a particular tendency towards casseroles smothered in cheese until unrecognizable. This weekend’s offering definitely falls in that category.

I saw this eggplant parmigiana on some Food Network show. Something along the lines of “Best Cheese-Covered Mess I’ve Ever Eaten/Made.” (Actually, here it is, and it was called “Best Thing I Ever Made – Fry It Up”) Alex Guarnaschelli, who has the most impossible last name ever, was raving about it. Seriously, I almost gave up on trying to find the recipe because of typing in that last name.

Now, I don’t find Chef Alex particularly enchanting. Her delivery is pretty boring actually, and she looks just like a former friend who literally just up and stopped talking to me right around the time I met XFE – never did solve that particular issue/mystery, but I’m sure my happiness was totally annoying to her.

But, Chef Alex does have some meat on her bones, and I tend to trust chefs that actually look like they eat. Never trust a skinny chef is one of my life mantras.

Eggplant Parmigiana via Poe

This recipe was fine. I wouldn’t say it was easy. And, you will use every damn cooking utensil in your house. At one point, I had four cookie sheets at play, and three pie plates that I was using as a dipping/breading station.

There are also a lot of steps that I think could be skipped. For example, making your own sauce. Yeah, it’s not like that’s a hard thing to do, but probably not necessary. In our case, one of the reasons we were making eggplant parmigiana is that we had some crushed tomatoes in the freezer from last year’s amazing tomato crop. So I swapped those out for two of the three cans of whole tomatoes the recipe called for, and just used one can of San Marzano whole tomatoes. If I made this again, I’d just buy a good, premade sauce and save myself some time.

Also: in the recipe, Alex says you don’t have to salt the eggplant and let them sit for an hour, but really, who wants bitter eggplant?

My other quibble is that we were told to use a 9 x 13 casserole dish, which I did. However, in the recipe, she suggests you can get three layers in that thing, which was not the case in our house. We used two medium-sized eggplants and got two generous, overflowing layers in the pan, so it worked out fine, but definitely not three layers.

Ours was a bit watery at the end. Some moisture on the bottom of the casserole dish. XFE noticed it when he was wrapping the leftovers to put them in the fridge. I don’t know if it was because I used too much sauce or because of the tomato swap out, and it wasn’t a ton, but maybe more than we expected(?).

I also question the necessity of breading and frying the eggplant. I’m not a big fan of frying in general (not for health reasons or anything. It just makes the house stink, in my opinion), and the final product was really a cheesy mess. You definitely don’t get any fried crispiness. But again, maybe that was because of the tomato/watery situation. Hard to tell. After dinner, XFE pointed out that Trader Joe’s has fried eggplant slices in the freezer section, so if I made this again, I might use that short cut as well, since home frying didn’t seem to make a discernible improvement to the final product.

However, with all that being said, this eggplant parmigiana was really, really good. Downright delicious.  I mean, how could it not be? It had like a couple of pounds of cheese. It was basically an ooey, gooey Italian cheese delivery system, which is just fine by me. And our tomatoes tasted amazing, really bright and summery, so it was a good use of those.

Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch this week. Maybe with a side of cheese, eaten Bleona style.

Bleona eating cheese.

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