Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Italian Bliss: Fettucini Alfredo and Eggplant Parmesian

The Recipes:
  • My dad's friend, a pure Italian, taught me these family recipes. The fettucini alfredo recipe was already written down, but I dictated the eggplant parmesan recipe by my dad's friend's memory. 
  • This is possibly my favorite meal of this whole project so far! That or the curry.
  • The eggplant parmesan takes so long to make that we started it, then made and ate the alfredo, then got back to making the parmesan.
  • You could serve either of these as lone main dishes plus a salad perhaps. The fettucini alfredo serves four, or eight if a side dish. The eggplan parmesan serves at least eight, but I don't know how many for sure.

Fettucini Alfredo

The Ingredients:
1 lb. gluten-free fettucini pasta (or something spirally like we used)
knob of butter
1 medium clove garlic
1 c. heavy or whipping cream (not Bavarian Style)
1¼ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (preferably Parmesan Reggiano)
Freshly grated black pepper to taste

The Directions:
Cook the gluten-free fettucini in plenty of boiling water. While it is cooking, melt butter in a skillet and brown minced garlic, then add in the cream. Simmer the sauce on med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cream is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not let the cream come to a rolling boil or else the fat will
separate and you will lose the smooth texture of this sauce. Add ½ c. of parmesan to the cream and
continue stirring until cheese starts to melt.

When cooked, drain the pasta and place in a shallow serving dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta,
sprinkling with another ½ c. parmesan and black pepper. Toss lightly until the fettuccini is well coated.
Serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

The Ingredients:
olive oil (enough for deep-frying)
6 cloves of garlic
28 oz. can (standard size) crushed tomatoes (or lots of fresh tomatoes)
6 oz. (standard size) can tomato paste
2 eggplants
2 eggs
parmesan Reggiano
black pepper
1-2 eggs
1 can buttermilk
2-3 c. gluten-free bread crumbs (we used corn bread crumbs)
parmesan (parmesan Reggiano preferred)

The Directions:

Preparing the sauce: Put a few tbsp. olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Peel 6 big garlic cloves, press garlic into pot with a garlic presser and brown slightly. Add in 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and a 6 oz. can of tomato paste. Add 5 tbsp. total for all the spice, either adding thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, basil or adding 5 tbsp. from a basic Italian seasoning shaker into pot. Boil off water if using fresh tomatoes along with paste; let the sauce get nice and thick. Put top on askew to let steam out. Turn off burner and let cool (will melt cheese if hot when making the casserole).

Preparing the eggplant: Use common eggplants with or without the skins, preferably without skins because the skins are bitter and shrink so the breading falls off. Peel off skins with a sharp knife. Cut into 5/16 inch slices. If serving for a family, use 2 eggplants; if making a big batch, use 4 eggplants. Set up slices in rows on counter and sprinkle coarse kosher salt or regular salt on one side. Then flip and sprinkle on the opposite side and let sit for 15 min. This dries the eggplant. Rinse off the eggplant slices under the sink faucet with your hands. Dry again by putting them on top of a paper towel that's on top of a rag, and blot them with a paper towel held in your hands by a rag. Put slices on a platter.

Deep-frying the eggplant: Cover pan with a bunch of olive oil, and heat. Mix 1 egg and a 1/2 can or more of buttermilk to get coagulation with the gluten-free bread crumbs (you might have to make another mix later if you run out). Place a drop of egg mix into oil to test it; the oil is heated when the egg mix fries immediately. Dredge eggplant slices with egg mix, then gluten-free bread crumbs, then fry on each side until extra browned on edges and tan in the middle (about 2 min, depending on your bread crumbs). If the slices start browning a lot faster later than they did at the beginning, turn down the heat of the oil. Take from pan when done and blot with paper towel to de-grease, using towel over paper to blot if too hot. Add another clean paper towel before putting the next layer on. Deep fry all slices and layer on top of each other on one plate.

Constructing the Casserole: Spread a thin layer of the cold tomato sauce onto bottom of pan. Then add a flat layer of eggplant. Cut some slices into quarters and use them to fill in gaps near edges.
Save small slices to put into the center of each layer. Then spread another layer of tomato paste on, shake a bit of salt over the whole layer, then sprinkle/grate on parmesan (grated short and skinny) and mozzarella (grated long and thick). Put on layers of slices of eggplant, then tomato sauce, then salt, then cheese until at least three layers thick (ours was 5 layers), ending with cheese. Put in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes, then take off the lid and put in for another 20 minutes, or until browned with black edges. Cool off for 20 minutes to let thicken. Serve.

The Illustrious Italian

My Take on the Bake
Wow! Eye-popping goodness! 5-star gluten-free Italian is possible! Also fattening gluten-free food is possible. I never knew eggplant parmesan was served as a casserole, but apparently its the authentic way to serve it. This tastes much better than a breaded fillet of eggplant that you get in a restaurant. Glad I could capture these native Italian "secret" recipes. I was really glad I was with my dad's friend also because he was able to modify the recipe to help compensate for the different way gluten-free "bread" crumbs behave and taste, such as adding buttermilk to the egg and adding more spices and salt to stop the corn flavor from overcoming the tomato and eggplant. 

Warning: this meal can take 3 hours, or even more if you do what we did and pause for a while to make the alfredo. A shorter but still delicious version is to deep-fry eggplant slices and serve with a slice of fresh tomato and a bit of mozzarella on top of each slice. Other fun and tasty ways to prepare eggplants when they are in abundance in the summer: make baba ganoush or grill eggplant slices with the skin still on, then sprinkle on salt and pepper.

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