Almost every Sunday we have friends and family over for Sunday Supper. Of course, all birthdays are celebrated by the birthday boy or girl picking their theme for the night. This Sunday we celebrated a much loved Lafayettian, Mr. Roger Kash. Y’all, my friends are amazing. I am surrounded by musicians, artists, professors the list goes on and on. When someone asks my friends what they do they get responses like “I’m a Grammy-winning artist.” “I market and manage one of the largest festivals in the U.S.” “I am a nationally published photographer.” “I run several successful businesses in New Orleans.” My answer is more like “Umm... I sell houses and I make a pretty kick-ass meatball.” I am so damned lucky to be surrounded by these amazing people. The trick is to feed them and feed them often (food is how I lure them in.) So today I will share with you one of my favorite people who requested this eggplant parmesan for his birthday because his Momma used to make it for him.
Mr. Roger Kash is a true original. He has lived a life that reads like a novel. He has a story for his stories - all told in this distinct New York accent. He’s a musician, record archivists, radio host, songwriter, and so much more. He also has his own radio show, Freetown Radio on KRVS 88.7FM. Listen to it and you will see why I call it the panty dropper hour. Once I listened to him read out the contents of his fridge not once but twice in a row and I was transfixed. Roger always saunters on the porch late, but not too late. He'll pour himself a glass of wine and soothes us with his many tales. He has stories range from his grandfather pretending his appendix scar was from the time he got jumped in the park by six guys and fought them off single-handedly, to ones that are not even close to appropriate for this blog. Mention a musician you like and he has a story with them. They are never pretentious stories, just an actual glimpse of that golden age in New York. Stories like “You know once I roomed with So and So, after a month I found out our other roommate was the prince of the Philippines” kind of story or “Yeah I ran into him once at record store on 24th and main, three weeks later I woke up in hotel in Texas” kind of story. His family stories where he does the old jew from New York accent are my favorite. You can close your eyes and see an elderly lady at the New York Jewish home for the aging complaining about her neighbor not sharing her radio and how when that ladies radio broke she told her where to stick it when she came to borrow her newly acquired radio. I repeat listen to Freetown Radio on KRVS 88.7 you won’t regret it. We love you, Roger Kash - the world would be a grayer place without you in it, and don’t forget always lets it soaks awhile.
Since this eggplant parmesan was for Rogers bday I got all the best ingredients. If you're on a budget feel free to replace with cheaper options. I used my roasted cherry tomato sauce in this recipe. The recipe is in the blog and it is really quick and easy to make and exponentially better than the jarred sauces. I use a combo of fresh mozzarella, low moisture mozzarella, and grated parmesan cheese. I mean it’s cheese, can you really go wrong? I chose panko bread crumbs because I feel they hold up better in the frying then baking process. Pick a good Italian seasoning or even better make your own. I’ll follow this with my recipe. Eggplants are in season here so I am lucky to have a garden to grab my eggplants from. The good ole large purple eggplants is what I used.
Prep for this may seem daunting but it is actually a pretty painless process. There are debates on whether or not you should salt your eggplant. I'm on team salt. First, why not? It's not a hard process and besides its cool to watch all the water bead up on the eggplant. Now, this being said remember to rinse them when you are done. Nothing kills an eggplant parmesan more than the eggplant tasting like a salt lick(once again I’ve learned this lesson the hard way) Set aside once they are salted, rinsed and dried thoroughly, it’s important they be dry so the batter will stick.
Place your flour in a shallow pan or a plate.Combine your bread crumbs and seasoning in another shallow pan or a plate. Beat eggs in an another container till the white and yolk are blended well. Set up your area before battering. An important part of frying is getting that batter to stick. Resting is an important part for this to happen. Line up you containers flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. At the end, there should be a cooling rack(wire rack) on a cookie sheet for you to place your slices on. The process is simple first coat eggplant in flour, then submerge in egg mixture followed by coating completely in bread crumbs. Place battered slices on the cooling rack and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
While they rest, heat up oil in a heavy skillet over medium- high heat. Fry them till they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. I do cheat and usually have two pans going at once. If you have ever fried food in Louisiana after March you will know the pain of feeling like your skin is melting off your body from the combination of the heat of frying and Louisiana humidity. As they are done place on cooling rack and let them cool down some, around 10 minutes. I find this allows the coating to stick even after the eggplant is baked. I continue frying till all the eggplant is done, no one has ever complained about leftover eggplant.
In a bowl combine low moisture mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and parsley.
Now the fun part. Assembling this beast of a meal. First scoop about a cup of sauce in a casserole dish. Spread evenly, thinly covering the bottom.
Cover the sauce with a layer of eggplant. Feel free to cut or as I do cram eggplant into weird smaller spaces. Layering eggplant can be a little bit like playing Tetris.
Cover this with 1/3 of your cheese mixture.
Continue in layers ending with a cheese layer. Not the fresh mozzarella yet, that is for later.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and remove foil and layer the top with your fresh mozzarella. Increase heat to 425 degrees and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes till the top is browned and bubbly.
Now you will want to dig right in but fight the urge. First, the cheese is like molten lava at this stage and for sure will destroy your mouth, like destroy it at peanut butter captain crunch levels. Also, it needs time to set, cutting into it right away will leave you with a sloppy mess on your plate. Kind of how you look after a girls night in Vegas - started out real pretty but by the end a heap on the floor not sure why you have lost all the feeling in your face, wondering why your duct taped to your friend.( This may or may not have happened to me).
3-4 cups Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce or sauce of your choice
4 lbs of eggplant sliced in rounds
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsps Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 & 1/2 cups flour
5 large eggs, beaten till thoroughly blended
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 chopped parsley
1 & 1/2 cups grated parmesan
6 ounces low moisture mozzarella, grated (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Lay the eggplant on wire racks and salt both sides. Let them sit for about 45 minutes till water beads develop on the top. Then rinse and pat dry slices. Make sure the slices are very dry or the batter will not stick.
3. Put flour in a shallow pan.
4. Combine bread crumbs and seasonings in another shallow ban.
5. Beat eggs in a separate bowl till white and yolk are thoroughly combined.
6. Set up cooling racks on cookie sheets for coated slices to rest.
7. Dip eggplant in flour, then coat in egg and finish by coating in breadcrumbs. Place on cooling racks and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
8. While the eggplant rests fry the eggplant till golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
9. Set slices on cooling racks and let rest for around 10 minutes.
10. Combine low- moisture mozzarella and parmesan in a bowl with basil and parsley. Set aside.
11. Spread evenly 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 dish.
12. Top with fried eggplant.Cut pieces to fit in awkward places.
13. Top with 1/3 of cheese.
14. Repeat till out of eggplant or sauce and finish with the last layer being cheese.
15. Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes.
16. Remove from oven. Increase temp 425 degrees.
17. Remove foil and top with fresh mozzarella. Bake for 15-20 minutes till browned and bubbly.
18. Remove from oven and let rest for around 30 minutes.
19. Top with fresh basil and serve.