Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Triple Threat: The Results

The Process:
Keeping three recipes bouncing around in my head was an excellent cognitive challenge this week, though fortunately the Eggplant Parm was primarily assembly and the Marinara was a repeat. The biggest concern for me was the Caesar Dressing, which has a flavor that everyone is familiar with. If I botched that, I couldn't even finagle some sort of artistic interpretation; Caesar is Caesar. To top that off, I had two very raw, very unpasteurized eggs that had me praying I would not send all of my dinner guests to the bathroom (or the ER) right after dinner. Finally, the issue with the sauce... I could not, under any circumstances, burn my sauce again. It just couldn't happen. So between stirring, home-pasteurizing, and balancing ingredients, I had plenty on my plate (pun not intended, but I like it!).

The Verdict:
Despite my fears, this Triple Threat was a triple success. I placed a guest on stirring duty, making the Marinara sauce as delicious as could be but without the terribly charred pan. My at-home pasteurization process* worked well, and we were all happily salmonella free. The eggplant assembly made for the perfect main course, and as for the Caesar Salad, it was a much milder version of the bottled stuff, perfectly suitable for a delicious side. I did not modify the recipes, at all, so read on for the delicious (and flawless, if I may say so) recipes from this week's dinner.

The finished product-- perfect served with bread or pasta (we chose bread)
Although my bread was not a day old, Alton's directions still led to perfect croutons
The Recipe: Hail Caesar Salad, adapted from Alton Brown's Good Eats: The Early Years
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients:

  • 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
Preparation:
  • 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.
Stirring patrol in the background as I flip the roasted eggplant
The Recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana, adapted from Mario Batali's "Molto Mario" on Food Network
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients:

  • 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
Preparation:
  • 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.

*Tips:
  • Pasteurizing eggs: Shell pasteurized eggs exist, but they are difficult to find. If you are cooking something that includes raw or undercooked eggs, make sure they are as fresh as possible. Some other tricks can help assuage your fears as well. Boiling an egg for a minute then cooling in an ice bath keeps the yolks loose and most of the whites loose as well (some may stick to the shell, which is fine), but it kills the germs that hang out on the eggshell. Also, a trick to ensure that external bacteria do not enter the egg is to crack the egg on a flat surface rather than on an edge. 
America's Test Kitchen Feed gives a quick tutorial for cracking eggs
  • Drying Romaine lettuce: In order for the dressing to really cling to the lettuce, these lettuce leaves need to be extremely dry. A salad spinner probably won't cut it-- you'll want to hand dry each leaf with a towel or leave lots of time for air drying. My sous chef/roommate was unhappy with her drying task until she realized it was the second most important task of the night.
  • Fresh mozzarella: There is nothing like it. Look for the mozzarella that comes in a ball, and you will notice a huge difference in taste.

1 comment:

  1. My mouth is watering! And I'm not that fond of eggplant! When are you coming back home to Cali so we can enjoy this good cooking!!!!
    Love, TMP xxx ooo

    ReplyDelete