Eggplant Parmesan – When done right, this is my favorite meal to eat! Thin layers of crisp eggplant, gooey cheese, and just enough sauce to hold it all together. Unfortunately most restaurants do not make it right, either by leaving the bitter skin on or by cutting it too thick. I haven’t made it in awhile, so I decided to make a practice batch and to make a giant pot of marinara sauce, because I have a few friends that I want to make this for very soon. Here is the best way I know of to eat eggplant:
1 large eggplant
2 T milk
Italian style breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs with Parm and parsley added to it)
Marinara sauce – I used this recipe from Fine Cooking. Try and use San Marzano tomatoes or a good brand like Muir Glen, for the best tasting sauce.
Mozzarella cheese, shredded ( I don’t use fresh because I find it too watery for this)
Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, grated
Peel the skin off the eggplants and cut off the ends. Slice eggplant (either longwise or across) into slightly less than ¼ inch slices. Arrange the slices in a colander or on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle each piece with kosher salt. Leave the eggplant for 30 minutes or so, until the bitter juices have been released. Using paper towels, pat the eggplant slices to soak up the excess juices.
Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan. Put some flour in a shallow bowl (season with salt and pepper), beat the eggs and milk in another shallow bowl, and add the breadcrumbs in yet another shallow bowl. Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, then the egg (shaking off excess), and into the breadcrumbs. Fry the pieces in canola oil until golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. This frying process will take a few batches, but tastes much better than baking the eggplant. *Important* make sure you wipe out the frying pan after every few batches, as some of the breadcrumbs will fall off and start to turn black, leaving a charred taste to the eggplant. And don’t forget to sprinkle the eggplant with some salt when it comes out of the pan.
When all of the eggplant is cooked, it’s time for assembly! You can use lasagna dishes, regular 9 x 13 dishes, or whatever you have around that’s a few inches deep. (1 large eggplant will make enough for an 8-inch square baking dish, serving 6-8 people, or less, if you’re serving Italians or my friend Rob). Spread some sauce on the bottom of the dish. Put down one layer of eggplant, making sure to fill in empty spots. Spread some more sauce on top of the eggplant, then some mozzarella and Parmesan. Continue the eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan layers until you are out of eggplant.
Bake in a 350-degree oven, covered, until heated through. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more.