One of Rach and John's mainstays in upstate New York is Ridge Terrace, where Rach used to work. Their favorite dish? The eggplant stacks made with hot capocollo ham. Here, Rach makes her version, which became a household go-to during quarantine.
- 2 large firm eggplant, thinly sliced across about ¼ inch
- Non-aerosol olive oil spray
- About 2 teaspoons fennel pollen or ground fennel
- About 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- About 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- One 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1 cup water or chicken stock
- One 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2 cups)
- 1½ cups passata (half a bottle)
- ¾ pound hot capocollo ham
- 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
- 2 cups provolone, shredded
- Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
Slice eggplant and arrange on kitchen towels, salt on each side and top with another towel. Press and drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450˚F with oven racks just above and below center.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange eggplant and spray both sides with olive oil spray, then season with fennel, red pepper and oregano. Roast 20 minutes or until golden and tender, swapping trays midway.
Meanwhile, heat EVOO in deep skillet or saucepot, about 3 turns of the pan, over medium heat, add bay leaf and onions and soften 7 to 8 minutes, stir in garlic, cinnamon and black pepper, stir 2 minutes, add about 1 cup water and let it absorb, add tomatoes and simmer to thicken a bit, then remove bay and cinnamon.
Roast hot ham on parchment when eggplant comes out, 2 to 3 minutes to hot and crisp at edges.
Stack in casserole dish: sauce, eggplant, ham, eggplant, ham, eggplant, sauce, cheese. Bake to golden and top with parsley to serve.