Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana | In Jennie's Kitchen

I don’t recall memories of my mother making eggplant parmigiana growing up. Veal or chicken were usually the breaded and fried food of choice when she made parmigiana. Eating eggplant parmigiana was reserved for when I ate out, and that was only until my late teens, possibly early twenties, because learning to love parmigiana took time.

When I think of eggplant parmigiana, I’m reminded of Michael’s father, Dominick. It was the dish he ordered every time we went to Louie’s Seafood on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. His parents lived in Co-op City, the tip of the Bronx, bordering Westchester. Our routine used to be picking them up, and driving over to Louie’s since there was no place good to eat, unless we were there during lunch time, and in that case, there was a diner that was quite reliable.

Louie’s made great pizza, but it was the eggplant parmigiana Dom always ordered. Claire, my mother-in-law would get the chicken or veal francese. We’d ask for a table in the side room, a little quieter, and less distracting. Michael’s parents were deaf, and so they signed to each other, while reading our lips since I didn’t know sign language. When they replied it was often very loud, a bit unintelligible, but mostly alarming to people who’ve never been immersed in deaf culture or community.

Michael’s request for the side room wasn’t because he was embarrassed by his parents. Being a hearing child of deaf parents isn’t easy. You grow up being their ambassador of sorts, and grow up faster than you ought to. His mother was also a very demanding person, adding another layer of an already complicated mother-only child relationship, which always seems more amplified when the only child is a son.

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He grew up with people staring as they rode the bus in the mid to late 60s. Rude remarks from kids at school. It was no wonder when we went to Louie’s that he asked for a table in the side room. Going out with his mother was already stressful for a number of reasons. He was just trying to carve out some sense of peace to eat his meal, and get out of there as emotionally unscathed as possible.

Eggplant Parmigiana | In Jennie's Kitchen

I read recently that Louie’s closed a few of months ago. There comes a point in your life when you begin to outlive the things you love—favorite restaurants, parents, husbands. Thankfully, they live on in the memories we carry and share, in the children we kiss good morning and good night every day. And in the foods we eat and cook.

Last week as I began assembling this eggplant parmigiana I thought about Dom. He was a simple man who grew up with tough circumstances, losing his hearing to scarlet fever when he was two years old, and his mother dying soon after. He had the sweetest smile, and when he said my name it always sounded like Jeffrey.

He loved to talk, and before he got older, and tired, he’d stand in the kitchen of my Brooklyn apartment while I was cooking dinner for all us, sharing clippings from the newspaper, and telling me stories of visiting friends at the deaf club, and what new drama happened while setting up chairs for services at temple (like me, he was an Italian-Catholic who became invested in his spouse’s Jewish heritage).

Over the years I learned to speak slowly so he could read my lips, and soon understanding what he was saying wasn’t difficult at all. Dom passed away just shy of a year after Michael, six years ago this month. I’d had a big falling out with my mother-in-law six months after Michael died, and didn’t find out until a year later. She didn’t want anyone to tell me. No chance to attend the funeral. No chance to say goodbye.

But when someone touches your life in such a way, goodbye is really just see you later.

Eggplant Parmigiana | In Jennie's Kitchen

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Eggplant Parmigiana

5.0 from 1 reviews
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3 to 4
This is one of those no recipe recipes. Forgive me if you prefer more structure, but I trust once you read the recipe, you'll also trust your instinct on make this. To make the grilled eggplant slices, brush both sides of the slices with olive oil, and grill until softened and cooked through but still slightly firm. You can also use a cast iron skillet on the stovetop to do this.

Ingredients

  • Thinly sliced eggplant (no more than ¼-inch thick, and preferably ⅛-inch)
  • Tomato sauce (I use this one orthis one)
  • Thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Freshly grated Pecorino-Locatelli

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Spread a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch pie plate.
  3. Arrange a few pieces of eggplant over the sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the pie plate.
  4. Spread another thin layer of sauce, enough to completely cover the eggplant.
  5. Top with a few slices of mozzarella and sprinkle some Pecorino on top.
  6. Repeat until you reach the rim of the pie plate, making sure your last layer is a coating of just sauce and Pecorino (no mozzarella).
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbly, and the mozzarella that's peeked through to the top is golden.
One Year Ago: Summer Peach Cake, Penne Primavera, Sweet Summer Corn Soup, Roasted Peach Scones, The BEST Chocolate Cake Ever, Chocolate Cherry Banana Bread

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8 Comments

  • Lorette Lavine

    Hi Jennie,
    I love this post…it speaks to my New York self and the blend of ethnicities. My father was Italian, my mother Irish and both were Catholic. My husband is Jewish so we are well blended with ethnic foods and recipes. You also write about areas of NY so familiar to me. My mom and dad grew up in Brooklyn!
    I love, love Eggplant Parmigiana and am going to make this really soon. I will be looking forward to your stories from Truro.
    xo Lorette

  • Saundra Sillaway

    Hi Jennie I made this your way and was happy with the results .The old method of breading and frying before baking added billions of calories. Thanx

  • Stephanie

    I loved this post because it parallels my life story. Louie’s was a special place for my husband , John and his family , too. He grew up in the neighborhood and would frequent Louis’s for a slice. John passed away 12 years ago at 49 years of age and when we dedicated his headstone, my family and friends celebrated his life at Louis’s in the side room.
    Thank you for your recipes and the glimpses into your family traditions.

  • Bill

    most importantly … i’ve been reading your blog for a number of years and always had to be careful where i read it as your stories of your family always brought tears to my eyes. that’s not been an issue for a while until today … i’m so sorry to hear about the falling out with your mother-in-law after your husband’s passing and especially sorry that you missed saying goodbye to your father in law. your strength is amazing and your daughter’s are lucky to have you.

    this recipe looks great and i can’t wait to try it. but, the “links” for the sauces you use aren’t links. which sauces are they supposed to be?

    thanks for all … love your recipes, love your cookbook and hope you’re enjoying upstate new york (i’m from yonkers living in central western vermont).

  • Jennie

    Bill,
    Thank you for sharing such thoughtful words. I just corrected the link to make them active. Thanks for letting me know they weren’t.
    xo-Jennie

  • Jennie

    Lorette,

    We can’t wait to be in North Truro. Counting down the days. 21 days to go!

    xo-Jennie

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