Saturday, December 15, 2018

Parmigiana Bianca di Melanzane (White Eggplant Parmesan)

Probably about a year ago, I was watching something on the Food Network, and they showed an Italian family eating a big feast.  What I remember most was when the old grandmother proudly unveiled her speciality: a beautiful eggplant parmesan made with white eggplants and NO tomato sauce.  I had never heard of such a thing (which is apparently a product of Sicily), but I'm all about unusual dishes.  And I just happened upon some beautiful white eggplants at the store.  If you're more of a cream sauce than a tomato sauce person, I highly recommend this version.

Note: Do not salt the cream sauce unless it absolutely needs it.  The eggplant, prosciutto, and cheeses will be salty enough on their own.

Parmigiana Bianca di Melanzane (White Eggplant Parmesan)

1½ pounds white eggplants
Sea salt
Canola oil, for frying
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing dish
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk, heated
Pinch grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup grated Romano cheese
1 (8-ounce) ball mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
6 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
Basil leaves

Cut the top and bottom off of each eggplant, and then cut into ¼-inch slices lengthwise.  Salt liberally and let sit for at least 1 hour.  Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry with a paper towel.

Heat oil in a large frying pan, then fry eggplant slices until golden brown on both sides and tender.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and the bay leaf and saut√© for 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add nutmeg, white pepper, ¼ cup Romano cheese, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Spoon a little of the cheese sauce into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.  Add a layer of eggplant slices, then mozzarella slices, and prosciutto.  Top with some more cheese sauce.  Repeat two more times, ending with cheese sauce (three layers total).  Sprinkle with remaining grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Bake for 30 minutes until casserole is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

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