I had come up with a pretty lofty group of recipes to try out last week, but after not making it to the farmer’s market OR the grocery store, we wound up eating Spaghetti-Os. This week, I decided to take it a little easier on myself and go with a few recipes I’ve done before. In fact, I’ve written about making Smitten Kitchen‘s wonderful recipe for Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter previously, but this time I had a few more things going on and took more pictures, so I figured I could double dip a bit. Note that I double the sauce recipe completely when I make it, hence the extra canned tomatoes, butter and onions (I went with one and a half instead of two full ones, actually). Earlier that day I had also gone to the farm stand right down the street from us and came across these awesome eggplant specimens. I think. Honestly, I don’t know how to tell if I got good ones or not yet. How do you know if an eggplant is good? Since our oven still isn’t working, I took Ingrid Croce’s recipe from FoodNetwork.com for Breaded Eggplant and tried cooking them on the stove. You’ll just have to wait and see how that turned out.
As you can see in that first picture above, I really had to utilize my dinky kitchen and also my time management skills. The eggplant was supposed to be cut, salted and left to drain/sweat for an hour, so I did that first. I laid the slices on a plate, put another plate on top, did the same and then used another plate with the tomato cans on top to add pressure. After that I got the onion and butter ready for the sauce and put them aside. Then I trimmed the fat off the chicken (an addition I made to the recipe for some added protein) and tossed them in a small baking dish I have with some olive oil, salt and pepper to marinate in the refrigerator for a while.
Once the prep stuff was done, I poured the two 28 oz cans of peeled plum tomatoes into the pot and got the heat going. Smitten Kitchen’s recipe calls for one can, but I double it to get even more of that saucy goodness. That simmered for 45 minutes or so, with occasional stirring and tomato squishing. With that in the works, I grilled the chicken on my George Foreman, chopped it up and tossed it in with the sauce as it simmered. Around this time, I also got the pasta water boiling. I went with wheat which doesn’t always taste great in recipes but I think works pretty well with the bold flavor of the sauce.
While the chicken cooked, I got the eggplant ready, dabbing it dry with a paper towel and transferring them to just one plate. I then got the egg mixture together and a bowl of panko crumbs. Instead of using the oven, I heated a pan with some olive oil up and got to cooking them after the chicken was in the sauce. This is where I realized things weren’t working out so well. The eggplant didn’t take the egg wash very well, the panko didn’t stick, the eggplant soaked up the olive oil in the pan and the panko crumbs started to burn in the pan. Overall they just weren’t looking right. I’ve seen really good breaded eggplant from my mom and this was not it.
The pasta finished cooking and I added that all to the sauce because I’ve heard all over the place that you’re supposed to finish cooking the pasta in with the sauce. My only goof with the sauce was not taking the onion out before adding the pasta, but that’s not so bad. The onion bits I didn’t pick out actually tasted alright. At least one of the problems I had with the eggplant was that I forgot to salt the pieces during the sweating process. Salting draws the water out and I don’t think much of that got done in the hour I left them to drain. I’m sure the wetness factor screwed with the already-altered cooking method. It’s too bad because I really do love some great breaded eggplant. The pasta itself was just as great as always. I love the buttery tone under the familiar red sauce. I make this recipe about once every month or two and it’s a real favorite.