Sunday, September 9, 2012

Triple Threat: Caesar Salad, Eggplant Parm, and Marinara v2.0

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

My birthday is on Monday, and it is the last milestone birthday before the one when they will send me my AARP card. In a few short days, I will be allowed to rent a car without any extra charges for being under 25! To celebrate becoming a true adult (since car rental freedom is obviously the sign of womanhood), I am going to tackle a triple-threat Walking Cookbook dinner. Dinner will consist of:

  1. Caesar Salad with all the homemade fixins... croutons, dressing, etc.
  2. Eggplant Parmesan (which uses...
  3. Homemade Marinara Sauce (without the burning part... I must redeem myself and make it up to my cookware)
With the help of my lovely Food Network consultants Alton Brown and Mario Batali, I will attempt both a Caesar Dressing from scratch (eggs and all) and a glorious-looking version of Eggplant Parmesan. And I can't forget Giada, whose Marinara Sauce will be just as tasty this time around but will hopefully take 1% of the time to clean up. That's a lot of cooking show inspiration (I promise I am really a public school teacher and not an under-cover Food Network exec)!

First, let me talk a bit about Alton's Caesar Salad. If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one TV chef with me (tough life, I know), it would definitely be Alton Brown. I would trust him with my survival, which comes into play when I am using a recipe calling for undercooked eggs. In the Tips section of my results page, I will share his words on making food with raw or undercooked eggs. Besides, he encourages wearing a tuxedo while preparing the Caesar Salad tableside... how can I resist? Unfortunately, I don't have a tuxedo. Maybe my friend can bring over her adorable cat with a permanent tuxedo print to class up the night.

Chumley-- just needs a bow tie
Mario Batali's Eggplant Parmesan was appealing to me for a number of reasons. Above all else, there is far less oil involved in this shockingly greasy dish (I am starting to question the wisdom of making my local deli's Eggplant Parm Sub a regular lunch item). The eggplant is roasted before the dish is assembled, meaning awesome flavor and crispiness without the need for a frying step. Also, it uses fresh mozzarella, which I would eat as its own meal if it were socially acceptable. This is way better than the shredded stuff. The final major bonus is that I get to try my homemade Marinara Sauce again, which yielded delicious results but an atrocious burnt pan due to the lack of stirring (see the results from my first attempt here). Still no peeking at the recipe for me!

So without further ado...
Even Chef Cardini made his Caesar tableside in a suit. Class act.

The Recipe: Hail Caesar Salad, adapted from Alton Brown's Good Eats: The Early Years
Yield: 8 servings
  • 8 oz day-old Italian bread
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp plus a pinch salt
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs (farm fresh or pasteurized shell), at room temperature
  • 1 lb romaine lettuce hearts
  • 7 grinds black pepper
  • 1/2 small lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 4 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • Heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Cut the bread into 3/4 inch cubes and spread on a pan. Bake until dry but not browned, 10-12 min. Set aside.
  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.
  • While water is boiling, mash garlic and 1/2 tsp of salt together with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon.
  • Add 4 tbsp. oil to the paste and mash to combine.
  • Place the garlic oil through a fine mesh sieve into a large saute pan.
  • Place the pan over medium heat, add the croutons, and saute until the oil is absorbed and the croutons are golden, 5 min. Set aside.
  • Add the eggs to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Set aside.
  • At the table ("with great flair and flourish") tear the lettuce into a very large bowl and toss with 2 tbsp of oil.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining pinch of salt and pepper. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil. Toss well.
  • Add the lemon juice and Worchestershire sauce and break in the eggs. Toss until a creamy dressing forms. Toss in parmesan cheese and top with croutons.
Batali's Eggplant Parmesan, a la The Amateur Gourmet

The Recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana, adapted from Mario Batali's "Molto Mario" on Food Network
Yield: 8 servings
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large eggplant, about 4 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 2 bunches fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 lbs fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
  • Heat the oven to 450°F.
  • Oil a baking sheet with the extra-virgin olive oil
  • Slice each eggplant into 6 pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.
  • Salt and pepper each disk and place on the oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake until the sliced begin to durn deep brown on top, about 12-15 min.
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and place on a separate dish to cool.
  • Lower oven temperature to 350°F.
  • In 2 separate brownie or casserole dishes, place the 8 largest slices of eggplant evenly spaced apart.
  • Top each disk with 1/4 cup Marinara and 1 tsp basil. Place 1 slice of mozzarella on top and sprinkle with 1 tsp parmesan.
  • Place the smaller slices of eggplant each of the disks and repeat the layering process until all eggplant is used.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the dish and bake uncovered until the cheese melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 min.
  • Serve immediately.
Time to Memorize: 3 days.

1 comment:

  1. And you thought having a tuxedo on hand was a dumb idea!