Saturday, November 9, 2013

Deconstructed eggplant-chik’n parmigiana

Earlier today I wrote about Food TV personality Alton Brown’s article in Wired, “Tastes Like Chicken,” featuring #BeyondMeat grilled chicken-free strips.

Then it occurred to me that this was as good an excuse as any to make dinner with some of the soy-and-pea-protein analogue that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. It really does taste like chicken, and its producers are building a serious case that high quality meat analogues aren’t just a thing for vegetarians, but could represent a significant increase in world food sustainability by producing a tasty, “meaty” protein alternative made from plants at a fraction the expense of raising meat. 

Even without non-trivial issues of health and humaneness being taken into account, that could be big.

Checking the fridge and the larder, I found an eggplant that needed cooking, and the last big chunk of ripe red tomato of the season.  Some onions, some garlic and lots of spice; and plenty of pasta, of course.  Let’s make a “deconstructed” eggplant parmigiana, over pasta, with chik’n!

From there it was just as simple as this: 
  • Cut the eggplant into cubes, cut an onion into chunks of similar size. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 450F for about 30-40 minutes or until they’re roasted and brown.  I did this in advance so the cooked product would be ready.
  • Chop the tomato (or, if you prefer, use canned tomato) and mince a bunch of garlic; quick-cook them with salt and pepper into a simple, fresh garden tomato sauce. 
  • Measure out about 4 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and set aside.
  • Start 3-4 ounces of spaghetti to cook. I went with a smallish portion since this dish would have plenty of veggies and “chik’n” protein.
  • Take half of a 1 pound box of Beyond Meat grilled chicken-free strips, cut and tear the strips into three narrower strips, and tear each in half - I like to tear them to get ragged ends that point up the “chicken-free” products remarkable texture resemblance to the real thing.  I sizzled them in a little olive oil to get brown and crunchy edges.

  1. When I started the spaghetti simmering, I put the garlicky tomato sauce in a pan, brought it to a simmer, then stirred in the roasted eggplant and onion chunks and let them warm through.  
  2. I cooked and drained the spaghetti and measured it into two warm bowls. 
  3. Pour the tomato-eggplant mix over the pasta, dress each with half of the grated Parmesan, and put the crisp “chik’n” on top.  

Serve with a good dry Italian red (I used a Piemontese Nebbiolo) and mangia!