NOVEMBER 18 2011

I know what you're thinking... "didn't you already make eggplant marinara?" It's true, I did. But that was the shortcut version for losers who can't plan 8 hours in advance for dinner. THIS is the REAL DEAL. Thankfully, I already had the 3 cups of tomato sauce waiting in the freezer, so dinner tonight only took a completely reasonable 4 hours.

thank you, Past Day, for making me this sauce

Not much changes, really, from the shortcut version except this one bakes for an entirely rational 3-1/2 hours instead of one sad, paltry hour. Plus the sauce is the full recipe instead of a quickie made by poor planners who are willing to accept a sub-par meal.

So slice the eggplants and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. The problem I have "tossing" eggplants with olive oil is that they are basically big, vegetal sponges. So as soon as I drizzle on the olive oil, the first slice in the bowl greedily soaks it all up. I try my best to get them all coated without adding additional oil, but as you can see, it's not exactly even.

greedy olive oil hog!

Oh well. Into the oven to roast for 20 - 25 minutes. Then assemble the layers and get this big guy in for it's utterly sensible 3-1/2 hours baking time. (Admittedly, I skimped a bit on the cheese layers because, based on my previous shortcut experience, 3 cups is just too much, IMHO.)

assembling layers of flavor

three repeated layers: eggplant, sauce & pecorino romano

Wow the house smells amazing! Toasty tomato sauce, rich bubbling cheese, earthy eggplant. It must be close to done! Oh, nope, 2 hours left to go. Time for a snack.

Finally it's done! Woah.. lookin' a little rough. Was I supposed to turn down the oven? No. Hmm...

lookin' kinda rough...

3-1/2 hour eggplant marinara

Well, lets give it a shot! Dish some up with one of my fav Frankies sides, the green beans in garlicky olive oil, as an accompaniment. Feeling pretty worried about this one... the bottom looks kinda burnt and everything seems dehydrated.

is it burnt?

First tentative bite... Oh. My. God. This is no longer just eggplant marinara. It's... it's... transformed! The ingredients have become one, melded into full umami harmony. The cheese is fabulously toasty and has infused into the eggplant, which in turn just melts away. A fresh zip from the mozzarella on top brings it all together. I do think maybe it's toasted just a tad past perfection, so I would cut the cooking time to 3 hours. But the wait is no doubt worth it.

I did take a suggestion from Past Day and added the fresh mozzarella to each individual serving instead of the whole pan because it doesn't re-heat well. Tomorrow's eggplant marinara sandwiches will thank me :)

I also successfully enacted my plan to only have a small serving for dinner so I could take the Frankies suggestion to let it "cool to room temperature - a couple of hours out of the oven, just when the heat's gone but it hasn't yet met the cold of the fridge - and then attack it, sneaking away with a plateful to eat standing up somewhere". I tiptoe back into the living room and happily devour my spoils. Turns out they're right... it's even better!!

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