I was a bit worried when the eggplant Parmesan rolls won last week’s poll. Not because they didn’t look delicious. Oh no. They looked very delicious. But they also looked kind of difficult.
The idea of rolling roasted eggplant (kinda flimsy) around a cheese filling seemed a bit advanced, but I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’m really glad I did. It turned out to be more delicious than I thought it would be and definitely easier.
It’s sometimes hard for me to express how good a dish is in a post because I just have these small little words and photos. I mean there are no smells. No tastes! But, in this case, I can try a different approach. You see Betsy keeps a running tally of Macheesmo dishes. This dish, after she tried it, narrowly bumped off Chicken and Dumplings for best comfort dish.
That means in times of crisis, I’ll be making this dish now instead of chicken and dumplings… or at least alternating between the two.
If I’m not making myself clear, that means this dish is the BOMB DOT COM. BACKSLASH DELICIOUS.
1) Slice eggplants longwise into 1/4 inch slices. Don't use the end pieces that are mostly skin.
2) In a large colander, lay down a row of eggplant slices and sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Lay down another row perpendicular to the first and add more salt. Repeat with all the eggplant slices.
3) Put a large bowl inside the colander so they press down on the eggplant slices. Add some weight to the bowl (fill it with water maybe) and let it press on the eggplant slices for about an hour.
4) Wash each eggplant slice well under cold water and the dry it on some paper towels.
5) Crank your oven up to 500 degrees and line two sheet pans with your eggplant slices. Drizzle each slice with a bit of olive oil and roast for 5-7 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned and flexible.
6) To prepare the filling, cut the center stem out of each swiss chard leaf. Quickly blanch the leaves in salted simmering water (1 tablespoon per gallon). After 60 seconds, pull the leaves and drain them. Wrap them in a few paper towels and press out as much liquid as possible from the chard.
7) Dice the swiss chard leaves and stir in with other filling ingredients.
9) Lower oven heat to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish and add a thin layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of the sauce.
8) Once your eggplant is cool out of the oven, take each slice and add some filling to the enter. Roll the eggplant over the filling and place the roll, seam-side down in your baking dish. Complete all the rolls this way.
9) Once all your rolls are done, add a tablespoon of sauce to each roll and lay a slice of mozzarella on each roll. Grate some Parmesan over the entire dish
10) Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F., then remove the cover and bake it for another 25-30 minutes.
11) Let the rolls cool briefly before serving them up!
From Bon Appétit March 2010.
Preparing the Eggplants
If you don’t cook with eggplant a lot, there’s some prep involved when you’re dealing with the large variety. For some reason they tend to take on a slightly bitter taste.
To get rid of the bitter flavor you have to salt the eggplant and press it for about an hour. That’ll pull out some of the liquid in the eggplant and you’ll have a much better dish and much happier eaters.
So, start by slicing your eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. You can leave the skin on but discard the end slices that are mostly skin. They will be too tough for this dish.
Then take a large colander and lay down a single row of eggplant and then sprinkle with a Teaspoon of Kosher salt. Lay down another row of eggplant perpendicular to the first and more salt and repeat until you use all your eggplant.
I got 12 slices out of 2 large eggplants. This is what my layers looked like:
Now that they are in the colander, put it over a large bowl to catch any liquid that drips and then add a smaller bowl filled with water to the top of the eggplants. This will create enough weight to slowly press the slices. I like using a bowl that’s roughly the same size as the colander so it fits snugly.
Leave this for one solid hour!
When the hour is up, take the eggplant out of the colander, wash each piece well under cold water and dry it on some paper towels. Now you can…
Roast the eggplant
Crank up your oven to 500 degrees and line two sheet pans with your eggplant slices. In my case I had 6 slices on each pan. Just try not to overlap the eggplant slices so they cook evenly.
Next, brush each slice of eggplant on both sides with a little bit of olive oil and roast them for about 5-7 minutes until they are slightly browned and flexible.
Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling!
The backbone of the filling is ricotta cheese but it’s punctuated with this lovely swiss chard which gives it some very nice flavor.
To prepare the swiss chard, cut out the center stem from each leaf. It’s too tough and won’t be good in the filling. Then quickly blanch the leaves in salted simmering water (1 Tablespoon/gallon). They will only take about 60-90 seconds to soften up in the water.
A good technique is to stir them around a bit with a good pair of tongs and then you can use those tongs to remove the leaves as well.
Let the leaves drain and cool for a minute on some paper towels or a clean dish towel.
Once the leaves are cool enough to handle (they’ll still be hot), pull together your paper towels or dish towel and press out as much liquid as you can! Too much water in your chard will make your filling runny and sad.
Then chop up your chard and add it to a bowl along with all your other filling ingredients.
Making the rolls
This was the part I was worried about, but it actually turns out that the eggplant is sturdier than I was giving it credit for. Just make sure you don’t over-roast your eggplant or it’ll just turn to mush.
Once your eggplant is cool, set a slice down on a board and put some filling in the middle. It’s hard to say how much filling because your eggplant slices will vary a lot. I would always overfill though and then when you roll it, some may just squirt out the sides, which is cool.
This is about the perfect amount for this particular eggplant piece.
Then slowly roll it. You want to roll the narrow end toward the wider end so the narrow end is tucked in. It should be a pretty tight final roll.
Don’t freak out if you mess one up. You can try again until you get it down. As you finish each roll, place it seam-side down in a large baking dish (9×13) that’s been lightly oiled and has a light layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.
When you’re all done with all your rolls, add some more tomato sauce to the top of each roll. You don’t want to over sauce these guys. An extra tablespoon or so per roll will be more than enough.
Then lay a slice of mozzarella on each slice and dust the whole thing with some Parmesan.
Cover this whole dish with foil and bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Then take off the foil and bake it for another 25-30 minutes.
Let it cool for a few minutes and serve it up!
This really was a fantastic take on eggplant parm. The rolls look very elegant actually and the filling is almost like a manicotti filling – also known as amazing.
If you’re in the mood to try something new and slightly challenging, eggplant Parmesan rolls are the way to go!