Monday, March 9, 2009

Eggplant Pizza

This recipe does it's best to drive the person trying to make it crazy with unnecessary steps and the shear amount of time and preparation it requires to make something that will not in any way shape or form turn out correctly unless you are a famous French chef. As of this moment Boulud and I are not speaking for a while.

The day before the party I sautéed the vegetables, roasted a head of garlic and read over the recipe several thousand times. None of this helped things go more smoothly. The eggplant was a greasy disaster and I'm not sure even using the flour that was in the original recipe would have improved things. I just did not have the patience for something like this especially when it didn't turn out.

Thankfully the mess I ended up with was very tasty albeit very, very greasy. If for some reason you are masochistic enough to attempt to make this reduce the oil wherever possible because Boulud's method goes way over board. Or if you're a lucky bread eater the toppings alone would probably make the world's tastiest regular ole pizza. I'll leave it up to one of you to experiment with that and get back to me.

Also included in this menu:
Chicken in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Vanilla Panna Cotta

Eggplant “Pizza”

1 or 2 medium eggplants
10 inch cake pan brushed with oil
roll of paper towels

2 cups oil for frying
(original recipe calls for flour to dredge eggplant in, which I couldn't use.)
2 eggs, whisked (to unsuccessfully substitute for the flour)

Peel one eggplant and cut into very thin rounds. Supposedly it is easiest on the mandoline but I couldn't get the eggplant to cooperate on mine so I went at it as best I could with a big knife. You need enough rounds of eggplant to cover the bottom of the pan twice so experiment with placing them on the cake pan to see if you need more. (You might want to even have a few extra if you're as bad at frying as I am.) If so peel the other eggplant and slice thin.

Sprinkle the slices on both sides with salt and place them a couple of layers at a time between layers of paper towel. (The salting is supposed to get rid of some moisture and bitterness as well as help the eggplant not absorb as much oil. It doesn't work, they will still absorb massive amounts of oil.) Set aside for 45 minutes and start working the filling for the “pizza.”


To assemble the crust pat the salted eggplant between more paper towels. Place a rack over a baking pan and place it near where you will be frying, this is where you'll put the fried eggplant rounds to rest and drip off some of the oil. (I didn't have a rack so I used paper towel which only worked moderately well.)

Pour the oil into a deep sauce pan (I would use small amounts of oil to lightly pan fry them on each side rather than immersing them in oil because they will absorb too much of it) and put pan over medium high heat.

Dredge eggplant in flour or egg in a vain attempt to bread them, tapping off extra flour/egg. When the oil is hot fry eggplant a couple of rounds at a time until they are just crispy on both sides. Place on baking pan or more paper towels to rest.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil (I have no idea what this does for the cooking at all.) Place the oiled cake pan in center of baking sheet and start constructing “pizza” by arranging fried eggplant slices with the slices slightly overlapping each other. Top with another layer of eggplant, season with salt and pepper and wonder why you spent two hours making a “crust.”

4 tablespoons oil
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 small yellow squash,trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds

This step can be done the day ahead of time or while waiting for eggplant to rest after being salted.

Sauté vegetables one at a time in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Warm first tablespoon of oil in small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add green pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the pepper is tender though not browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon into a dish and set aside.

Place pan back over heat and add more oil if needed. Warm oil, place onion in pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. Set cooked onions aside on another dish. Repeat with zucchini and squash, adding salt and pepper to each, adding oil as needed and cooking until tender. Place each in their own separate dishes. (Cooking each vegetable separately made sure each one was cooked through perfectly but keeping each in separate dishes was unnecessary if you know you will be putting all the veggies on the “pizza” anyway.)

5 basil leaves, torn into pieces (I would double this)
1 roasted red pepper (roast your own or used pre-prepared), cut into thin strips
1 roasted yellow pepper, cut into thin strips (I used two red)
1 tablespoon parsley
12 pieces oil packed sun dried tomatoes, washed or padded dry of all oil then quartered
1 head roasted garlic (do this the day ahead of time), pushed out of peel
12 black or kalamata olives, halved

2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Finish “pizza” with toppings by scattered basil over the eggplant “crust” already in cake pan. Lay red and yellow roasted pepper strips over basil, sprinkle with the parsley. Arrange a layer of zucchini on top of this, then yellow squash, and green pepper. Top with sun dried tomatoes and roasted garlic cloves. Finish with sautéed onions and olives. Dust “pizza” with Parmesan and feta evenly. Drizzle with oil (but only if you somehow feel all the oil already in the veggies isn't quite enough and you're hoping for a heart attack to round out the evening.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. The original recipe claims you can them lift “pizza” out of pan and onto cutting board to use pizza cutter to make slices in order to serve. I ended up with a mushy oily mess with no integrity which we dubbed yummy plate o' vegetables casserole. Consoling myself with wine and adding more feta to the “pizza” I vowed to never look at this recipe ever again.

Original recipe minus the snarky commentary from The Cafe Boulud Cookbook.


Sara said...

Hmmm. The flavor combo sounds so good -- I'd try spritzing the eggplant rounds with a weensy bit of EVOO and roasting them, instead.

Or maybe skipping the egg and just dry-saute them in a nonstick skillet until they're golden-brown on both sides? (Works really well with zucchini, so might work with eggplant.)

Emily said...

I'll have to explore this more when I've rinsed the taste of defeat and eggplant off my palate.

The roasting might work, maybe with a little Parmesan to create some crust.