Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pane alla parmigiana: Bread for dinner

I try to be scrupulous about giving credit for recipes – even, when possible, for ideas for recipes. But I cannot for the life of me think where our dinner this evening came from. I know I didn’t make it up. It could have been Bastianich. Or Batali. Or Hazan. Or some regional Italian cookbook. I tried googling, which I’m usually quite good at, but I couldn't find the dish anywhere.

So I apologize. To someone.

This great dinner was bread alla parmigiana: I cut excellent bread (baguette from New York’s Tom Cat Bakery), crust and all, into slices nearly 3/4 inch (2cm) thick, brushed them with olive oil and put them into a 375 degree F (190 C) oven for ten minutes to dry out and get a little toasty. I then used them as I would have used eggplant/aubergine slices for melanzane alla parmigiana: tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish; a layer of bread; sauce; mozzarella (not too much); a sprinkling of parmesan; more bread; more sauce. Et cetera, ending with mozzarella. If it had been summer, I’d have added basil.

Thirty-five minutes in that 375 oven, covered; another 10 or 12 minutes uncovered; 10 minutes more out of the oven to cool a little and to come together.

The bread soaks up liquid from the tomatoes and mozzarella and becomes bread-pudding-like – almost soufflé-like, in fact. It is much lighter than eggplant parmigiana, since bread is mostly air and eggplant is mostly eggplant (water, actually, but so is nearly all food).

The amount that half a baguette, half a quart/liter of sauce and half a mozzarella made was perfect as a one-dish supper for Jackie and me. It would have made six or more appetizer portions, and believe me, at some future dinner party it will.

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