Do Not Make Eggplant Parmesan
This is a true story. If you’re Italian you’re going to like it.
I decided at 3:30 one recent afternoon to make eggplant parmesan. I had just watched a documentary on Netflix called “What The Health” and was convinced I would be dead by tomorrow if I ever ate meat again, so I was looking for meatless recipes.
I should have looked up “easy eggplant parmesan” but that would have been too logical for my liking, so instead I settled on a recipe from Bon Appetit.
I don’t know if you know this, but a recipe from Bon Appetit is really code for “you’ll spend $200 on rare ingredients and six days in the kitchen,” but I didn’t even look over the directions, believing I am a good enough cook to tackle anything.
I’m here to tell you that eggplant parmesan destroyed any notion I had that I was a good enough cook and that I could handle anything.
I should have turned back when I realized I had to slice four pounds of eggplant and then carefully place the slices in between six layers of paper towels so the darn things could dry out for an hour. That’s how special they think this purple vegetable is — as if it were some rare treat from an exotic country. It’s eggplant, people! It shouldn’t require more attention than a day-old baby.
Instead of buying a jar of marinara, I was instructed to make my own sauce with an entire head of crushed garlic and some red onions as a base. Okay, I can handle that, I thought, but the sauce needed to roast in the oven for two and a half-hours, and it was looking more likely we’d be eating eggplant parmesan for breakfast.
Bon Apetit should have a warning at the beginning of the recipe: “Do not, under any circumstances, begin this dish at 3:30 in the afternoon. In fact, this recipe will rob you of for your life for the unforeseeable future so stop procrastinating and get cooking.”
The thing that really killed me was having to dip a mountain of sliced eggplant into three separate bowls of coating flour, egg, then breadcrumbs. Halfway through, my breadcrumbs got all gummy from the egg so I had to abandon that part of the recipe. Instead, I sprinkled the eggplant slices with salt and pepper and threw them in the oven to roast.
By this time, my husband had come in from work and honest to god, he looked around and said, “What is going on in here.”
There were eggplant slices on the floor, flour and egg spilled on the counter and marinara stains all over my shirt.
“I am in the middle of a war,” I told him, “and I’m too far into enemy territory to turn back. So, go get some take-out food, have a nice dinner on the porch and I’ll see you in the morning.”
I had to fry the eggplant that made it through my breadcrumb factory in a large frying pan, but only eight slices would fit in the pan at a time, so that was an hourlong ordeal, and it occurred to me again how pampered this eggplant is. So far, I’d washed it, sliced it, salted it, dried it, put it through an assembly line, and now I had to fry it in individual batches.
I didn’t care if I ever saw an eggplant again.
I had so many eggplant slices doing so many things–roasting in the oven, frying in the pan, rolling along the floor and drying in between paper towels–at one point I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I was in the weeds, as they say in the restaurant industry.
When I had transformed enough eggplant slices to make a few layers, I had to admit they were a sorry looking bunch. But I was at the point where I didn’t care how the dish looked at the end. I just wanted out of my contract.
Thankfully, mozzarella is called for in this dish and who doesn’t love mozzarella — I figured I’d just throw enough cheese in there to make it taste good.
At 9 at night my husband and I sat down to a piece of eggplant parm. It was actually delicious. And it was even better the next day.
It must have been the cheese.
I’d like to thank all the Italian grandmas out there who have made this dish for generations in their families. I don’t think the people who walk through your door and sit down at your kitchen table have the slightest idea what you go through to make eggplant parm.
What I know is that you are not appreciated enough and we should all be ashamed.
I have one piece of advice for anyone who’s thinking of setting off on this journey: approach this task with bravery and start two days ahead.