Eggplant Parmesan

From Joe Levy's recipe collection

Joe, don't make eggplant Parmesan. I know you came here looking for your recipe, but if you are reading this, it means that you've forgotten the last three times you tried making it.

The last time, when you said, "Wait, I thought we had breadcrumbs in the house," it rang a bell, as if you had said the exact same thing the time before. You can rescue any dish, so you tried making breadcrumbs from the three slices of bread you had left. Because really, who goes to the grocery store to buy one item, especially when it's just an overpriced, crumbled version of something you already have?

Whoops! The toaster left the inside too moist. So you tried the toaster oven, setting your timer for progressively longer intervals, unwilling to turn the temperature up for fear of burning the already toasted outside.

When the bread seemed ready, the food chopper crumbled only half of it, and left the rest in untouched chunks that still apparently retained moisture. One chunk even got wedged on the end of the blade, eliciting a disturbing, grinding noise from the jammed device. The sifter was too fine, but you removed what crumbs you could, put the rest back in the toaster oven, and eventually crumbled most of it.

The breadcrumbs alone took over an hour. Running the food chopper for so long may have permanently damaged your hearing. (Better get that checked.) Oh, and you used up those breadcrumbs halfway through.

Hey, remember how you decided to slice, salt, and drain the huge eggplant, knowing that it wouldn't be quite enough, but figuring that you would supplement it with eggplant cutlets from the freezer? And how when it was done draining, Karen reminded you to pick up the CSA farm share that you had forgotten about? And how you then brought home two more eggplants that you sure as hell weren't going to start draining right then? Good times: Wondering what to do with more eggplant, when there was a could-not-be-more-obvious thing to do if only you'd remembered to pick them up earlier.

While we're reminiscing, do you remember the incredible mess involved in breading eggplant cutlets? How difficult it is to even wash your hands, or to handle utensils without smearing flour-and-egg paste everywhere? And, oh yeah, do you remember how you have to stop frying after every two batches, to awkwardly remove blackened crumbs from the oil, so that they don't make everything taste like burning?

In fact, it was around this point that you not only remembered how wretched the experience had been the previous time, but also vaguely recalled your past self's dispirited recollection of the time before that. Why is it that you can easily remember how delicious the last eggplant Parmesan was, but not the morally unjustifiable amount of labor that it took?

Thankfully, there was a turning point: When you got to switch to the store-bought, pre-breaded eggplant cutlets, and wave goodbye to those soup plates full of intractable goop. Prying apart the two frozen cutlets that had stuck together might have even worked if one of them hadn't snapped, which is the story of how you got eggplant in your eye.

You eventually put the assembled dish in the oven. By sacred tradition, you could have asked Karen to clean up, but she was out, and the kitchen was both a disaster and a screaming reminder of the clusterfuck that your evening had become. Nothing less than total annihilation of the mess was acceptable. Some of the goop had cemented onto the soup plates, and the amount of hot water required to remove all of the oily charcoal from the sides of the sink made the water heater swear revenge, but you got it done. Right then, your forty-minute timer went off. Yes, it took you the entire baking time to clean the kitchen, when you could have just set fire to it all instead. Glancing at the clock, you realized that you had just spent (not even counting the unexpected trip to the farm stand) five hours on this project: Five hours that you could have spent on something more enjoyable, such as flossing the cat, doing squat thrusts, or watching "The Star Wars Holiday Special" three times in a row.

Don't do it.

None of this is made up. Visit the tip jar and help Joe afford to buy a damn M_ A_'s frozen eggplant parmesan. (Those things are pretty good.)

Entrance | Yindex | © 1999-2008