Monday, August 5, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite all-time dishes...when it's done right. I've had some truly terrible ones. Sometimes it's the sauce that's horrible. (Don't get me started on Italian restaurants that don't have a decent sauce. I mean, come on, it's in like half the dishes. If the sauce sucks, so does practically everything there.) But more often it's the eggplant itself. There's the undercooked eggplant, which is totally inedible (the texture is nasty). There's the super oily eggplant, which is just gross. I've even had dried out eggplant that resembles shoe leather. So I think if you have a good sauce and you cook your eggplant correctly, your eggplant parm will be decent. If you want to go the extra mile, spring for really good quality cheese and add some fresh basil...then you might pass decent and make it all the way to excellent.

Yield: 8 servings

2 to 3 medium eggplants (about 2 ¼ lb.), sliced ½” thick
2 cups all purpose flour (lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper)
4 large eggs, beaten with 1-2 tablespoons water
3 cups plain breadcrumbs (lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper)
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying
1 ½ lb. shredded (or thinly sliced) mozzarella (preferably buffalo mozzarella from Italy)
16 basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1.      Place eggplant slices in a large colander and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 ½ hours. Rinse well with cold water to remove the salt and drain. You can skip this entire step, but I think it improves the texture and removes some bitterness.
2.      Heat roughly 1/4” oil in a large, heavy skillet. Dredge the sliced eggplant slices in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in egg mixture, then breadcrumbs. Fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
3.      Heat oven to 350º F.
4.      Coat the bottom of a deep 9- x 13-inch baking pan with about 1/3 of the marinara sauce. Add a single layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with half the parmigiano-reggiano, half the basil (tearing the leaves as you go) and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the layering process (starting with more sauce). Top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.
5.      Cover and bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

salted eggplant slices
dipping in flour
dipping in egg
dipping in breadcrumbs

Make sure the oil is nice and hot (the eggplant should sizzle
when it hits the pan). Otherwise the eggplant just sits there
soaking up oil. That's how you get greasy eggplant parmesan.
eggplant layered over marinara sauce

I had enough slices that I could tear
up a few and fill in some of the gaps
sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano and basil
topped with mozzarella
(I prefer buffalo mozzarella, but you can use regular.)

I continued layering, but forgot to take a
photo of the uncooked finished product...
...but here's the baked eggplant parmesan
sliced, in the pan

I also forgot to take a photo of a piece on a plate,
but I found a photo from the last time I made this,
so that's what's up at the top of the page.

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