How L.A. Works: Trois Mec’s Take on Eggplant Parmesan (Plus Reservations)

A “simple” dish that is anything but easy
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“Tomato pulp, charred eggplant, jamón ibérico de bellota, smoked tomato”: the dish on the menu at Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec may seem basic, but his interpretation of eggplant parmesan takes 24 hours—and nearly as many steps—to make

KEY INGREDIENTS: 4 Japanese eggplants, 3 tomatoes (after experimenting with several varieties, Lefebvre decided on Early Girls), Ibérico ham, 2 kinds of olive oil, raspberry vinegar, a couple of fresh herbs, and smoked tomato powder

Prep 1

  • Step 1: Remove stems from tops of tomatoes. Make small X in skin on bottom of each tomato.
  • Step 2: Place tomatoes in hot water for 1 or 2 minutes, blanching but not cooking them. Place in ice bath. Remove skin, which has curled up at bottom and top and is easy to peel.
  • Step 3: Quarter tomatoes and push out seeds with thumbs (this method by hand is best for preserving pulp). Discard seeds.

Prep 2

  • Step 4: Pulse tomatoes in Cuisinart food processor for 3 to 4 seconds so that they are blended but still a bit chunky.
  • Step 5: Using a chinois (cone-shaped fine strainer) covered with cheesecloth, pour in tomatoes. Drain liquid. Pick up cheesecloth and twist until pulp becomes a little wet ball. Tie with twine, drain, and air-dry overnight.

The Next Day

  • Step 6: Peel eggplants.
  • Step 7: Create liquid mixture of milk, salt, thyme, lemon juice, fresh and dried oregano, and smashed garlic, all of which are precisely weighed out in grams.
  • Step 8: Place eggplants in sous vide bag that’s filled with liquid mix. Vacuum-seal bag.

Cook

  • Step 9: Cook for about 17 minutes in steam oven at just above 200 degrees.
  • Step 10: Remove eggplants from bag and cut in half lengthwise. Brush with Spanish Arbequina olive oil.
  • Step 11: Place eggplants on wood-fired grill, frequently turning and brushing with olive oil ( 15 minutes).

Plate

  • Step 12: Take 1 spoonful of tomato pulp (which is still bright red and moist but not liquidy) and spread on small plate.
  • Step 13: Pour even layer of French extra virgin olive oil over entire tomato base.
  • Step 14: Dust evenly with fleur de sel.
  • Step 15: Pour light layer of raspberry vinegar over tomato base.

Garnish

  • Step 16: Take pinch of piment d’Espelette (dried French red pepper) and sprinkle over tomato base. Slice 2 or 3 wild mint leaves into 1-millimeter-wide strips, and distribute evenly over tomato base with 3 or 4 purslane leaves.
  • Step 17: Chop eggplants into 1-inch pieces. Place 2 grill-marked eggplant pieces on the plate.
  • Step 18: Deep-fry 3 or 4 leaves of opal basil for about 20 seconds. Spread evenly on plate around eggplant.

Complete

  • Step 19: Place ham on Berkel meat slicer—set to 0—and slice as thinly as possible.
  • Step 20: Lay 1 or 2 slices of ham on top of the eggplant and tomato.
  • Step 21: Hold plate in heated oven for a few seconds to slightly melt the fat of the ham. Brush lightly with olive oil. Add dash of smoked tomato powder. Voilà!

PLUS: The Trick to Scoring Trois Mec Tickets

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Every other Friday at 8 a.m., hopeful diners log onto Trois Mec’s Web site to purchase seats for dinner within the next two weeks (each seat costs $75, not including gratuity or drinks). With only 26 seats and two weeknight dinner services, snagging a spot requires strategy.

INSIDE LINE >> Log on at 7:59 a.m. and then refresh at 8 a.m. The system times out after 11 minutes, so have your credit card handy. Seatings typically sell out within 30 minutes; tables for two are the first to go. Shoot for a four-top or buy solo—the earlier, the better.

 

LA Woman
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This feature originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Los Angeles magazine

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