June Recipe of the Month: Melanzane Parmigiana - Stratford Chefs School

June Recipe of the Month: Melanzane Parmigiana

Melanzane Parmigiana | Yva Santini | Executive Chef, Pazzo Pizzeria and Taverna

Excerpted from Farm To Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers

by Andrew Coppolino | Photos by Terry Manzo

 

This is a new addition to the Pazzo repertoire, and I have grown to be quite fond of it. It is the first vegetarian entrée that is not a pasta that I have put on a menu. Using Pam Rogers’ organic produce (Kawthoolei Farm Organics) exclusively to make this dish for this project was exciting and yielded a result most delicious! The San Marzano tomatoes and shallots from her farm made an outstandingly decadent tomato sauce. The texture of the eggplant was integral and the flavour was delicate. Something about it felt incredibly nourishing to eat. The four elements in this dish can all be prepared in advance. The tomato sauce, the basil pesto, and the la bomba are all sizeable enough recipes that you will have some leftover for your pantry to use as you please.

 

As a graduate of Stratford Chefs School (Class of 2009), I am always excited for the potential of working with new apprentices from the school.  I tend toward promoting a kitchen environment that is particularly welcoming to first time cooks, and that also encourages an overall positive workspace for cooks of all skill levels. One of the many observations I have made in eight years working as a chef is that I can only achieve my goals if the kitchen works as a team. I have all of the apprentices and teammates that have worked with me in the past and currently to thank for shaping my culinary experience. So thank you, to all the teammates I have ever had and have now, I am very grateful!

Eggplant: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 small Italian eggplants

Diamond Crystal Kosher salt

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tsp dried oregano
Canola oil (for frying)

Method:

Peel and slice the eggplant into ½ inch (1.3 cm) rounds. Place the eggplant rounds in a large bowl and sprinkle with enough salt that you can see it sticking to each piece and not dissolving right away (about 2 to 4 tablespoons.)  Toss the eggplant well in the salt and let sit for 20 minutes.  After this time, you should observe a small pooling of water in your bowl. Rinse the eggplant in cold water thoroughly enough that when you squeeze the water out of the eggplant, it is salty enough to enjoy but not overly salty. If the water being squeezed out is too salty, keep rinsing. If the water is not salty at all, add more salt and let the eggplant sit again.

Once the eggplant is rinsed, set up the flour and the egg into two separate bowls, and the panko and oregano into a third. Dredge each piece of eggplant first in the flour, then the egg, then the panko mixture, ensuring the panko is being pushed in rather firmly to the eggplant. Set your eggplant aside until you are ready to fry and assemble the melanzane.

Tomato Sauce: 1 hour 30 minutes; yield is roughly 2 L

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter
4 medium sized shallots, diced
Salt and pepper and chili (optional) to taste
5 lb San Marzano tomatoes, cored and peeled

½ cup canned whole tomato, hand crushed

¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved (for assembly)

3 to 5 thin slices of smoked mozzarella, or other melting cheese (for assembly)

Method:

Choose a saucepan that will fit your ingredients into it, and begin by melting the butter. Add the diced shallots to the butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they are tender and sweet (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Add the peeled and canned tomato and stir. Simmer this gently over low heat and stir with a wooden spoon frequently until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Adjust the salt and pepper to your preference.

 

Basil Pesto: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

½ cup mild tasting oil such as canola or grapeseed
1 small clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup picked basil leaves, blanched, refreshed, and chopped

¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

Lemon juice to taste

 

Method:
In a blender, add the oil, garlic, and some salt and pepper, and blend. Add the chopped basil and Parmigiano and blend ONLY until the basil becomes smooth and the colour a mostly homogeneous vibrant green colour with no specs. Taste the pesto and add salt, pepper, and lemon to your preference, and blend once more to incorporate your seasoning. Blending for too long may cause the pesto to heat and therefore discolour, so limit the duration of blending as much as possible.

 

Meaghan’s La Bomba

Ingredients:

1/2 medium fennel bulb, chopped

1/2 small white onion, chopped

2 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped

¼ cup artichoke hearts, chopped

¼ cup green olives, pitted, chopped

1 cup canola oil
½ cup white wine vinegar

2 tbsp chilli flakes

salt & pepper

 

Method:

Place fennel, onion, red pepper, artichokes, olives, in a food processor. Pulse on and off for one minute, adding half the oil. Blitz for an additional 30 seconds, or until it is paste-like but still a little chunky. Remove and put into small saucepan. Add white wine vinegar, chilli flakes, remaining oil, and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. Season to taste.

 

Assembly: 15 minutes

Preset oven to 400F (200C)

In a high rimmed, heavy bottomed pot, add enough canola oil so that it is 2-inches (5 cm) deep and heat this gently to 375F (190C). Fry your eggplant rounds in this oil until they are a deep golden brown colour.

In an oven proof dish (sized for two portions) spoon in about one full cup of hot tomato sauce, and sprinkle the shaved Parmigiano on the sauce. Layer the fried eggplant on top of the sauce and distribute the la bomba and cheese however you desire.  Bake until the cheese is melted. Garnish with basil pesto.

 

Enjoy!

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