Eggplant Parm and the Magic of Cooking

Today we're talking about Eggplant Parm. It's not on the Springbone menu, never has been. But Eggplant Parm has a lot to teach us about cooking. Here's what you'll need.
  • 1 Eggplant
  • 1 Can of tomatos (whole, diced, or pureed) 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Ricotta or mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

For our first magic trick, we're going to take one of nature's most bitter fruits -- yes, eggplant is a fruit, in fact, it's actually a berry as well -- and by some unknown act of magic (maybe a scientist out there can explain to me?) extract all of its bitterness while keeping its savory, rich, and creamy flavor.

  1. Cut the eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch thick (you've had eggplant parm, right? Cut it to that thickness)
  2.  Generously sprinkle each side of the rounds with salt. 
  3. Let it sit for about an hour. I let the eggplant rest on one of those wired trays that sit atop a baking tray. That way the bitter water content that is extracted can fall away. 
  4. After an hour or so you will find that lots of liquid has accumulated on the surface of each round. Shake it off and blot the remaining liquid with a paper towel. 

 While this is going on we can start our second magic trick. This time we will turn lowly canned tomatoes into a luxurious and decadent homemade tomato sauce. You know that Rao's stuff you keep buying for $10/bottle. Yeah it's great, but not as good as your own homemade sauce which you can make for $3 in under 4 minutes. Get ready to have your mind blown. (And if you don't believe me add up the seconds)

  1. Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in large pan (30 seconds)
  2. Add 3 cloves of garlic (diced, sliced or whole is fine) and 1 (or 1/2) onion diced. Hold the pan tilted at an angle so all of the garlic and onion is completely submerged in the oil. Cook until the garlic is golden brown, but not burnt. Garlic can burn quickly so be ready with the next step (45 seconds)
  3. Pour one large can of tomatoes (if whole or diced, crush between your fingers first) into the hot oil/allium mix (5 seconds)
  4. Add salt, black pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. (120 seconds)
  5. If you want to get fancy you can add some chopped fresh basil and/or oregano at the very end as you're turning off the heat. I would not suggest adding the dried stuff, but its your sauce! If you want it spicy ("arrabiata") you can add crushed red pepper along with the tomatoes. (5 seconds)

 Ta-da! You have 30 ounces of fresh homemade tomato sauce! Of course you can make this in larger portions but since it's so quick and easy there is no need to make more than a day or two of what you need to keep it fresh. 

Now for the final trick! Let's make Eggplant Parm. 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Get it nice and hot, just before smoking
  2. Add your sliced, salted, and dried eggplant rounds to the pan. Don't crowd the pan, we need to keep the oil very hot to get a good fry on the eggplant. After about 90 seconds (depending on the heat of your oil) flip and fry the other side. Remove once done and keep frying the remaining eggplant in batches. Let the fried eggplant rest on the mesh baking try so it doesn't get soggy. Soggy (and bitter) eggplant is the enemy!
  3. Add a dollop of your fresh and still-hot homemade tomato sauce on top of each eggplant round.
  4. Add mozzarella and/or ricotta on top of the sauce
  5. Grate fresh reggiano on top of each round
  6. Turn on your broiler (the super hot cooking element from above in your oven) and place the entire tray of assembled eggplant rounds into the oven as close as possible to the broiler. Keep your oven open so you can watch the magic happen. I say this because it is beautiful to watch as the sauce sizzles and the cheese browns and melts, but also because every oven/broiler is different and I can't tell you just how long this will take so it's best to just watch it happen. My guess is about 2 minutes. It's okay to let the heat escape from the oven because we just want the direct heat from the flame to torch the tops of the eggplant rounds. 

Why am I, the bone broth maker telling you all of this?

Well, a) it's a great recipe that's easy to make and will please everyone from kids to food snobs; b) that tomato sauce hack is a real life-changer; and c) because this recipe/process/method whatever you want to call it, encapsulates everything that Springbone is all about.

The process of making bone broth is very simple. It starts with humble and in some cases unwanted ingredients (bones, vegetable scraps) that get added together with water under the presence of fire and the result is something that is so much more valuable than the sum of its parts. If you've had our broth you know that it's delicious but you likely also know that it has potion-like ability to heal. 

Cooking is awesome. It really is magic, but you get to eat your tricks and if you do it right it will make you happier, healthier, and stronger. 

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