after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Alton Brown

impending steak-off

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t says:  I’m a fan of Alton Brown … but I’ll be first to admit that his recipes are often a little complicated/fussy.  In his defense, he at least attempts to justify the extra steps with some kind of logic/theory/evidence.  I often use his steak-cooking procedure when I cooking my steaks at home.  But then I saw this:

My world has been rocked.  Hmmmm …  I think we need a steak-off.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 November 2011 at 12:27pm

Eggplant Parmigiana-Lasagna

with 2 comments

t says: This weekend, like every weekend, I wanted to make something that would last us a few meals. I had a hankering for eggplant parmigiana, but I find that I get tired of eggplant parm really quickly. For me, there’s just too much eggplant flavor so that I’m usually eggplanted out by the end of my meal – who knows how I’d feel by the third time I’ve had it in the same week! Also, the texture of plain ol’ eggplant also gets boring when it’s reheated (you lose the crunch of the breading). But I got to thinking – what if I jazz it up with some meat? And use some different cheeses? And some pasta? It didn’t take me long to realize that I was no longer playing around with an eggplant parm recipe, rather, adding eggplant to a lasagna recipe! There we have it – a lasagna and eggplant parm hybrid! The recipe that follows is the love-child of Alton Brown’s eggplant parm recipe and Ina Garten’s turkey lasagna recipe.

When all the cooking was done, I think it was pretty good, and it’s definitely something I’ll make again. This is NOT a very gravy-full recipe – if you like tomato sauce, you can up the quantity. It’s also NOT a big puddle of oozy cheese. Everything is balanced (in my opinion), so I don’t think I’m going to make straight-up eggplant parm anymore (this way is just more fun). Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients or steps – it can be made easier by using oven-ready pastas or ready-made gravy (although the latter is sometimes a little yuck – but Barilla makes some decent sauces)! You could also omit the meat (but what’s the fun in that?), or swap out the veal for more turkey if you’re not a fan of red meat. g had the idea to add a layer or two of sauteed spinach … but I forgot … oops! In any case – you get the idea – it’s a pretty versatile recipe. You don’t even have to use this one – but try adding eggplant parm to your favorite lasagna recipe and see what happens!


for the eggplant …

1 eggplant

all-purpose flour, panko bread crumbs, Progresso “Italian style” bread crumbs, Parmesan/Romano grated cheese (the cheap kind)

4 eggs

canola oil and olive oil in a 50:50 mix – although if you only want to use one, go for canola – higher smoke point

2 baking sheets (optional)

for the pasta of the lasagna …

use whatever you want – oven ready is probably the easiest so you have less to think about or do …

for the cheeses of the lasagna …

1 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into slices

16 oz ricotta (we like part-skim)

4 oz goat cheese (doesn’t have to be fancy goat cheese – we used the cheap President brand)

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

1 egg

2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

0.5 tsp kosher salt

0.25 tsp black pepper

for the tomato sauce of the lasagna … (you can substitute the sauce-relevant ingredients for at least 28-oz of whatever pre-made tomato sauce you want – you’ll still want the meat)

0.5 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (we <3 Tuttorosso brand “with basil” – Wegman’s brand is ok – Hunt’s is awful)

basil (if your tomatoes don’t have some in it)

0.25 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp grated cheese

0.5 lb ground veal

0.5 lb ground turkey


-1) The point is to try and remove some of the excess liquid from the eggplant. Maybe this step is completely unnecessary – it might just be something Alton Brown does. Personally, I didn’t mind this step because it gave me the chance to take care of other prep work like making gravy, etc. Slice eggplant lengthwise (i.e. the cutting stroke starts from the top and goes to the bottom) into 10 super-long slices.  I use 10 slices because I like 2 layers of four slices in the lasagna, and the two outside-most slices have a lot of “skin” on them, which isn’t that pleasant to eat through, are thrown away.  Cut the green part off. Line baking sheet with foil. Line the sheet with paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the baking sheet with kosher salt. Arrange eggplant into a single layer (you may have to use two layers separated with paper towels). Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover with paper towels. Do a second layer if you need to. Place a second baking sheet on top of the paper towel and eggplant layers. Put something heavy on top of the second baking sheet. Go do some other steps while the moisture gets pressed out.

0) Start a pot on the stovetop with ample salted water for preparing noodles (but don’t make it yet). If you have oven-ready sheets, then nevermind. Set aside the number of noodles you’ll need to make two single-sheet-thick layers (with a little overlap) in the baking dish of your choice (I used 9″ x 13″).

1) Make the ricotta cheese mixture … Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, egg, parsley, salt and black pepper (i.e. everything but the mozzarella). Set aside in fridge.

2) Make the meat gravy … In whatever pot you intend to make the gravy in, brown the two meats in a tablespoon of oil. You may have to do this in batches so you can get a nice color on the meat (otherwise, you’ll essentially boil or steam the meat, which isn’t as flavorful). Set meat aside (leave the fat in the pot). Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic. When fragrant, add tomatoes and return meat to pot. Add the grated cheese and baking soda. Let the pot cook down for a while under a very low heat.

3) Prep the eggplant … Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set some kind of frying vessel on medium heat (or just a smidge above medium – I used a setting of “6” on a scale of 1-10). You don’t want it to smoke when you add the oil (which you should add later, right before you start frying). As far as what kind of vessel – I like a 4 quart pot – the tall sides prevent too much splashing. Set up a 3-stage dredging system: 1 bowl of flour, 1 bowl of beaten eggs, 1 bowl of bread crumb mix. For the bread crumb mix, I like using panko (for the crunch), Italian-style bread crumbs (for the flavor), and cheapo grated cheese (also for the flavor) in a 2:1:1 ratio. Feel free to use whatever bread crumbs or ratio you want. Free the eggplant from the baking sheet sandwich you made. Wipe them with paper towels to remove excess salt and liquid. Dredge with flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture. Set slices aside until done dredging.

4) Fry the eggplant … Add oil to your heated frying vessel on the stovetop (I like a half-inch deep pool of oil). Fry the eggplant slices until they get to a pretty color (I go two at a time b/c that’s what fits in my pot) and set them aside on some paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

5) Make the pasta … Cook the noodles according to instructions on package. If you have oven-ready sheets, then double-check and make sure you don’t have to do anything to them except stick them in the oven (I’ve never used them, myself, so I leave that up to you).

6) Layer the lasagna … Place 1/3 of the gravy on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Layer as follows: 1 layer of lasagna noodles, nearly half of the mozzarella slices, 4 slices of eggplant, half of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the gravy, 1 layer of lasagna noodles, nearly half of the mozzarella slices, 4 slices of eggplant, half of the ricotta mixture, the remaining gravy, and the remaining mozzarella (broken apart into small chunks and scattered on top).

7) Cook the lasagna … Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until you see bubbling throughout the baking dish (the egg in the cheese mixture is the only raw ingredient in the lasagna), and a nice browning of the mozzarella on top. Cool and enjoy!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 March 2010 at 10:53pm

Salt-Entombed Striped Bass (with pix)

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t says:  We saw this beautiful salt-entombed fish on Iron Chef America (followed by raves from tasters), and Thomas Keller has a great photo of one in Ad Hoc at Home; but it never occurred to us that we could actually do this ourselves.  g and I rarely cook fish – it’s not that we don’t like it, but we fear screwing up when cooking it (no one likes dry fish) when it’s way more expensive than, say, chicken (and it doesn’t keep that well, either).  Our friends who have no such fears and share similar television-viewing tastes to ours, were also intrigued by salt encrusted fish; however, they actually had the activation energy needed to make a plan and execute a Sunday night dinner.  They invited us to join their scheme and off we were to Reading Terminal Market to purchase a large [to us] striped bass.  We settled on Wan’s seafood (despite the better reputation and cleaner appearance, John Yi’s striped bass had a little glaucoma) and watched as they scaled and gutted it.  We joined up with our friends, k and cm, and, guided by a few recipes, we prepped the fish, we cooked the fish, and we ate the fish.  Poor Herbie never stood a chance.  The whole procedure ended up being quite simple (with minimal prep time, as the fishmonger did all the hard work), but the results were phenomenal – both for our eyes and our mouth.  Why hadn’t someone told us that this is the easiest way to cook tender, juicy fish, ever?  Below is the recipe that we constructed (adapted from Thomas Keller’s and Alton Brown’s recipes).  It was so easy and delicious that we did it again the following day (with Herbina) just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke – it wasn’t (g’s cousin, d, informed us that indeed, it wasn’t … it was a striped bass).


__ 1 striped bass gutted and scaled, fins and gills removed, head and tail intact (4-4.5 lb in weight before gutting).  We have read that snapper and tilapia are similar to striped bass and therefore may be substituted – we haven’t tried it [yet].
__ 3 lb kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand is what we used – we used Morton’s once and the proportions were all wrong – stupid variable coarseness between brands) (n.b. If you use a larger fish, you will have to use more salt, as the listed amount was perfect for the size fish we purchased)
__ 4 egg whites
__ 0.75 c water
__ handful of flat-leaf parsley
__ 0.5 bulb (+ fronds) of fennel, cut in half (so you’ll have two quarters of the bulb)
__ 0.5 lemon, sliced into at least four slices
__ 0.5 orange, sliced into at least four slices


0)  Set oven to 425 degrees.

1)  Rinse and pat the fish dry.  Stuff with fennel, lemon slices, and parsley.

Meet Herbina. Isn't she pretty?

Herbina's stuffed.

2)  Combine salt, eggs, and water in a bowl.  Hand-mix.

3)  In a pan (lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup), put a half-inch thick layer of salt mixture to lay the fish on (just a little bigger than the fish’s actual size).  Place fish onto its salt (kind of like a body in a chalk-outline at a crime scene).  Lightly pack salt to completely cover the fish.  We used the entirety of the salt mixture for our sized fish.  Some exposed tail is ok (we had to cut the tail because of the small oven).  You don’t have to suture the slit where you stuffed the fish, just close the wound manually and cover with salt to keep closed.  When you’re done, give it a look over to ensure there are no obvious cracks.

"It's like burying your feet in sand at the beach!"

Where'd she go? Into her sarcophagus! (macabre, I know)

4)  Transport fish to oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Rotate pan 180 degrees.  Cook for 20 more minutes.  If you have no faith that the fish is done, you could attempt to penetrate the crust with a fork or skewer into the thickest part of the fish, wait 5 seconds, and then remove the object and touch it to your lip to ensure it’s warm.  Alternatively, you could just test the temperature of the thickest part with a thermometer (I think 125 degrees is the desired temperature, but I don’t know for sure – obviously we did NOT use a thermometer).  Let rest for 10 minutes (this is vital).

Herbina's in a sauna.

5)  In a dramatic fashion, crack the crust with a stern stroke of a large spoon or a mallet or a [clean] hammer.  Attempt to remove the crust in large pieces if possible; try not to accidentally pierce the skin and introduce salt to the tender meat underneath, especially when removing salt from the open slit where you stuffed the fish.

Hammer and chisel (i.e. butter knife).

Look inside! It's Herbina!

She's almost free!

Free at last.

6)  Remove the skin from the exposed side of the fish.  Remove the exposed fillet of meat resting on the ?spine?.  Remove the ?spine?, bones, and stuffing (the stuffing doesn’t taste good – we tried it).  Remove the remaining fillet of meat.  Depending on your meat-removal skills, you may have to eat with a little bit of caution, but most of the bones in a fish this size are large, so it’s not as bad.  The trickiest bones are the ones where the fins (if your fish still had fins) would connect to the body.  Brush up on your fish anatomy (google works) if you want to be an expert filleter.

Herbina's beauty is more than skin-deep.

"Fish have layers ... like ogres."

After you remove a fillet, remove the shrubbery.

Yikes - Herbina's looking a little ... thin ...

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 10:33pm