Here we are again. Happy as can be. Ready to roll out the next Chapter of my Sunday event with San Diego Foodies and all that we made as we brought ‘community’ together and cooked together with everyone making their own dish, not by the book, not with a recipe… but with a ‘concept’ and motivation to create. I also want to say we made Chicken Cordon Bleu, but I believe there’s a recipe up here already for that, so you’re ‘good to go’. I also want to say I did get a call back from Gina who actually made the dish, saying how yummy it was. And guess what? SHE made it. Not me! XD
Life is good.
Today I am going to feature Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan. Now…. we all have seen recipes for Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan. But here’s what they DON’T tell you (and this goes for EVERYTHING you cook)!
Wouldn’t it be great to orchestrate a meal? What do I mean by that? To spend one day cutting, shopping, preparing, and in some cases cooking 3/4 of the way your food in advance?
So if we think about the Parmesan or ‘parmesana family’ as I call them, what can be done in advance? Well, you can certainly slice the eggplant. Even if it discolors, after cooked, no one will know. And we can cut and pound the chicken breast, dust it with white whole wheat flour and have that ready. And you know you’ll need cheese right? So, the ‘standard’ is Mozarella and Parmesan. Of course I get a little crazy and throw in whatever I have bits left of in the fridge (usually white cheddar), but you can stay with traditional for sure and still be good. But it’s always good to shred the cheese in advance. The Mozarella is going to give you the gooey cheesey factor, and parm will give you the flavor. WHOOT? Mozarella is not ‘the’ flavor? No my friend. But nothing else melts like a good ‘mutz’. And what kind of mutz Chef Marian are we talking about? Because there’s ‘fresh’ mozarella – the best is burratta (with all its’ high cholesterol enhancing properties…. I mean, if you have high cholesterol, you should be reading this label) and usually floats in a liquid. Now, everything in moderation. And if you just have a couple of bites NOTHING will kill ya. But still… I’d like you to know what you’re getting into here!
We use our burratta (the small rounds are especially cute for toothpicks) for insalata caprese - which is mutz, mayters (tomatoes) and basil with a little olive oil drizzled over it (salt and pepper) which makes for a GREAT appetizer when friends come over AND there’s the standard hard aged Mozarella that you see shrink wrapped in plastic. Now fresh is always flavorful (way more than aged) but it’s a very light flavor, if that makes sense while the hard shrink wrapped kind has absolutely no flavor (to me, anyway).
If we’re going with harder cheese, I prefer Poly-O. Not every store carries it. As a matter of fact, MOST don’t. So I was amazed to find it at Stater Bros! And wouldn’t I love THEM to sponsor my Cooking Show or San Diego Foodies? Yeeeaah. As they start to carry more and more organic produce and things like Melissa’s Egg Roll Wrappers, they certainly are winning ME over!
Getting back to the food, I think the ‘essential’ concepts are: make sure your pan is heated before cooking and watch that you use a sprayer ………………………………
instead of pouring oil into a pan. I always say this is a neat way to save on calories, but beyond that, if you put too much oil into a pan with eggplant…. guess what? The eggplant will soak up the oil. YECH! YECH! and more YECH!
I actually got the spray bottle in a beauty supply shop. Crazy. I know. But it costs less. So I went for it!
Speaking of going for it, see those knives in the picture? Whellll my friends, if you join San Diego Foodies YOU get a discount on CutCo Knives. ’THE’ best bread knife ever! Not that I want to do a commercial here…. but this is the block Chef Marian has in the kitchen and there’s a reason.
Too many problems with fancier knives going dull. And Cutco comes and sharpens for free! Yeeaaah.
What were we talking about? Ah yes. Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan. I want you to think about layers. No. It’s not a lasagna. But there are some terrifically wonderful flavors and health benefits to adding a caramelized mixture of onions, shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Yes? So remember that layer for under the cheese. Pullease!
This was our second layer. Then we added a third. Notice how the fresh herbs go inside the dish (not to burn as a ‘top’ item).
Here’s something else. What’s the first layer?
Tomato sauce. Why? So that the dish does not stick to the bottom. And what about the sides? A massage of olive oil would be good.
And when do we not use Olive Oil? When we want no flavor or if we’re heating something on the stove top on high.
What do we substitute? Grape Seed Oil.
There’s an interesting tidbit about Grape seed oil. They don’t call it that in England. They call it Rapeseed Oil.
Now wait. That’s just not true. Sounds like it could be true. The story I got was that it was the same oil. In England they call it Rapeseed but when they brought it to America, it was renamed for the bad connotation. They thought Americans wouldn’t buy it. But when we check a little further, we find that Rapeseed is just like our Canola, while Grape seed is a bi-product of wine making. So there you have it! Did I mention that I used to be a reporter for the news on radio? Well, yeeeaaah. Curious minds want to know!
So go get your recipes out, try something fun and remember some of the tips you’ve learned here. Back tomorrow (or the next day) with Ginger Hoisin Soy and…. well…. let’s surprise you!