I have had lousy eggplant parmesan, and I have had great eggplant parmesan. If the breading isn’t done right, and cooked right, it can be a greasy, soggy, messy mess of a dish. I have always shied away from making it after my first attempt, many years ago, was less than stellar. Let’s face it – it was a greasy, soggy, messy mess of a dish.
When looking through my stack of recipes torn from magazines, copied from the internet, or jotted down on the backs of envelops, I found a recipe for eggplant parm published in the October 2008 issue of Food & Wine. I had saved it because it did not call for breading the eggplant slices, or salting and draining them, a step that is often included in eggplant dishes, supposedly to remove any bitter flavor. I dutifully follow such directions, always wondering if it is truly necessary. That salting and draining step is often one that prevents me from fixing a recipe. Sometimes, that extra half-hour is not in the cards.
Anyway, I bought some smallish eggplants at a farmers’ market on the weekend without a clear decision of what to do with them. Ratatouille, maybe? Then I ran across the parmesan recipe. I decided I needed 2 more small eggplant in order for it to be worth while. I needed nothing else. I had leftover spaghetti sauce, plenty of mozzarella and parmesan. My basil is still being harvested, so I spent about 30 minutes putting all the ingredients together in the afternoon, refrigerating it until it was time to bake it before dinner. All I needed to do at the last minute was toss a salad, and make some buttered toast from my No-Knead Bread.
EGGPLANT PARMESAN WITH BREAD CRUMB TOPPING-
Food & Wine, Oct. 2008
3 T. olive oil, plus more for frying the eggplant
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Two 28-ounce cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, drained*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper**
8 small eggplant (1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise 1/2 inch thick***
3 T. coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 pound fresh mozzarella (or use grocery store shredded)
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 T. dry bread crumbs
* I used one can of diced tomatoes, and approximately 2 cup of leftover spaghetti sauce; no rules here, just use what works for you
**Use regular salt and pre=ground pepper. Don’t let the lack of Kosher salt or freshly ground pepper stop you. Use what you have.
***I used 4 medium sized eggplants.
1. Heat the 3 T. of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Crush the tomatoes, if whole, by hand over the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until thick, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Here’s where I added my leftover sauce, already quite thick, and heated it up. The directions in the magazine call for pureeing the whole thing in a food processor. I did not do that. My homemade sauce had a little meat in it and some sliced mushrooms. I didn’t want to change the texture of my meat sauce so I left it as it was.) Season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over medium-high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Add more oil as necessary. (I used nowhere near that much oil. I just put about 1 tablespoon in the skillet before each batch.) Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in a 9 X 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the chopped fresh basil. Top with one-third of the mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated parmesan. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle bread crumbs all over the op of the eggplant parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the dish is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. (I used a 7 X 11-inch Pyrex dish and had two slices of eggplant leftover. I covered my casserole with foil and refrigerated it, bringing it to room temperature before baking it, uncovered. Delicious!)