Eggplant ParmesanPosted: 18 September 2010
>Eggplant can be really, really delicious. It can also look like alien brains (pickled eggplant. Seriously.) and people can be sort of leery of it. A few years ago at Christmas I made Eggplant Gratin for Senor’s family. It didn’t go over well. There was a lot of politely picking around the eggplant and just eating little bits of cheese and sauce. Eggplant Gratin is yummy, don’t get me wrong, but it’s labor intensive and it’s GREASY. Technically so is Eggplant Parmesan, when made in the traditional fashion. Gratin requires you to fry the sliced eggplant in olive oil. Parmesan requires you to fry a breaded slice of egg plant in olive oil. Or does it?
Eggplant Parmesan is traditionally breaded and fried slices of eggplant that are then layered in a baking dish with lots of tomato sauce and mozzarella. While I love me some gooey, greasy food (hello cheese curds?) I feel like eggplant dishes should not be so ghastly. Eggplant itself is pretty good for you and I hate taking something healthy and mutilating it into oblivion. Cheese is already ‘unhealthy’ in that in mass quantities it’s super-fatty (and delicious) so I’m okay with all the deep frying. But eggplant? It’s a veg! A good one! I want to let it shine through.
A few weeks ago I was reading a food magazine about a baked eggplant parm where the eggplant slices were baked with Panko breadcrumbs instead of fried. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. Then I saw another, similar recipe on a food blog. Must be a sign from the food gods, surely. So I bought two nice eggplants for $1 at the market last weekend and picked up some Panko breadcrumbs which, btw, will now be staple in my kitchen. I read a comment in another blog about how yummy and crunchy the eggplant is straight out of the oven before you cover it in sauce and it got me thinking about how I wanted to serve our eggplant parm.
I ended up deciding to have the eggplant over a bed of penne and marinara, topped with fresh mozzarella. It was delicious and the presentation is pretty drool-worthy if I do say so myself. However, when Senor came home I arranged his with the eggplant to the side of the pasta. This meant that his eggplant stayed crispy-crunchy until it went into his mouth. He could mix it with the sauce if he wanted but there was no soggy underside. With how delicious the crunchy outside and gooey eggplant inside is, I think I’ll serve it that way from now on.
So, try this. It’s amazing and also, cheap as hell.
2 eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Pat dry. (this gets rid of ‘bitter juices, or so I hear.)
Mix 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan with garlic, pepper, red pepper and basil to taste.
Drag each slice of eggplant through a beaten egg, and then through the breadcrumb mixture. Pat to compress the breading on each slice. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
When you have all the eggplants coated with crumbs, toss ’em in the oven. Mine took about 40 minutes at 350 but you should know that my oven is both weird and also uneven. You can see in the picture below how the back of the oven gets hotter than the front. Awesome.
Once they are done, serve with the noodle of your choice, marinara (I make mine with tomato puree or home-preserved sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper and basil), and top with some good-quality mozzarella.
I can say with confidence that it will be delicious and also, not greasy. Senor loved it and mumbled through a full mouth “I want you to make it every day except then I’d get sick of it and I’d hate to get sick of it cause it’s f-ing awesome.” Seal of approval, done and done.