Sunday, October 15, 2006

Deep-Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil

We have been watching a lot of TLC's new show, Take Home Chef. It's funny and entertaining because the host always picks women with large boobs who may be willing to sleep with him once the cameras are off. Anyway. We enjoy it, and the food he makes often looks tasty. So tonight I tried one of his recipes, from Episode 146, for Deep-Fried Eggplant with Mozzarella and Basil.

I couldn't bring myself to deep fry so I decided to lightly pan-fry.... forgetting that eggplant is exceptionally absorbent so they ended up oily despite my change. I didn't double-bread the eggplant (didn't feel it was necessary), and I used Trader Joe's marinara sauce instead of making my own.

I doubt I would make this again because it's sort of just a fancy take on eggplant parm, but if I did I would reduce the heat on the oil so that the eggplant would have more time to cook through before browning. Some of the thicker slices didn't cook all the way through and I didn't enjoy that. I did like this dish and would not mind eating this again, I just don't think I will make it again.

Deep Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil
from Curtis Stone, Take Home Chef

For the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons/30 ml olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red jalapeno chili, chopped
7 ripe plum tomatoes, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For eggplant sandwiches:
1 eggplant (cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices)
One 7-ounce ball fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese (cut crosswise into 8 slices)
8 fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup/95 g all purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups/210 g dried plain bread crumbs
Safflower oil, for deep frying

To make the tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and chili and sauté for another 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are very tender and mushy, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the eggplant sandwiches:
Arrange the eggplant slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cold running water to remove the salt. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.

Place 1 slice of cheese and 1 basil leaf atop 1 eggplant slice. Top with a second eggplant slice. Repeat to make 8 sandwiches total. Place the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls or pie plates.

Working with 1 eggplant sandwich at a time, dredge the eggplant sandwiches in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip the sandwiches in the eggs, allowing the excess egg to drip back into the bowl of eggs, and dredge in the bread crumbs to coat completely.

Repeat the process to give the eggplant sandwich a second coating of the eggs and bread crumbs (not the flour). Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach the depth of 2 inches/5 cm. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F/180°C.

Working in batches, add the sandwiches to the hot oil and fry until they are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fried sandwiches to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Sprinkle the hot sandwiches with salt. Cut each sandwich into 4 wedges. Serve the sandwiches on a platter with the warm tomato sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

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