I cooked alone and didn’t enjoy it.
Yup, you heard me. I don’t mean to grumble and complain, but this is just another casualty of the bizarre storm we just experienced. You see, with her kids stuck at home and my house full of stranded powerless guests, this past Tuesday Suzy and I had to cancel our set-in-stone cooking date. Since she was planning to help me make a ton of food for a dinner I am hosting this weekend for 30 people, it was a big let-down. This cooking date would have made my life easier, since I wouldn’t have had to do such big batch cooking alone.
You see, making Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan for such a large group is a big undertaking, to say the least. The breading and frying alone are time consuming, never mind the pounding of the chicken and then the assembly part. So I was not a happy camper when I got news of our cancelled date.
With the prospect of the task at hand looming over me, I took advantage of being stuck home yesterday with my ear infection stricken son and got to work. I pounded chicken breasts, with pieces flying into my eyes, wishing there was someone there to turn the water on for me so I didn’t contaminate my kitchen. I breaded and cooked eggplant in batches, using only one skillet instead of two since I was alone. And I cooked, assembled and cleaned with no one to keep me company. There was no laughing or story telling; just me and some grease sizzling and splattering and a big nasty mess.
It’s not often I do large quantity cooking solo. But I suppose, if there’s a bright side to this story, it’s a reminder of why I cook with friends, especially when have to cook large amounts. If I had made my massive amount of food with Suzy, as was the plan, I would have served it to guests feeling good, thinking about the nice time making it. Instead, I’ll have to choke back negative thoughts as I present my meal and hope the taste of the food isn’t compromised as much as the experience of making it.
Makes 1 8 x 13 dish
2 large eggplants, cut into rounds and salted for an hour
6 cups marinara sauce (homemade is best)
1 small ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1 cup white whole wheat flour
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh basil
Rinse and dry the salted eggplant rounds. On a work surface covered with plastic wrap, lay out bread crumbs, flour and a shallow bowl with the egg. Heat a large non-stick skillet with 1/8 inch olive oil. Dip the eggplant rounds first in flour on both sides shaking off any excess, then in the egg mixture and finally in bread crumbs. Place the eggplant in the heated skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden, sprinkling with salt and pepper while cooking. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel lined plate and repeat until all of the eggplant is cooked, replacing the oil a few times. Once all of the eggplant is cooked, begin to assemble the eggplant parmesan. In a large baking dish, lay ½ inch of marinara sauce. Place breaded eggplant rounds in a single layer, top with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese and Romano cheese and more sauce. Add another layer of eggplant, cheese and sauce and then another. On the top layer, place the fresh slices of mozzarella cheese and chopped basil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Freeze until ready to cook.
To cook, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and cook covered (with a layer of foil on top) until no longer frozen. This will take about 90 minutes to two hours.
Quick Marinara Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped roughly
8 garlic cloves, smashed
3 large cans whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
In a dip rimmed pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté the garlic and shallots for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and basil. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3o minutes or so. Puree with an immersion blender until you achieve your desired consistency.