Eggplant Parmesan

I’ve never really embraced the eggplant.  Oh believe me, I’ve wanted to.  They are pretty.  They look delicious.  But I’ve just never been a huge fan.  I don’t hate it or anything, but I would like to like it more.  So…I’ve been eating more eggplant.

Eggplant parmesan is one of the few eggplant dishes where I think, “okay, I can get into this.”  However, I’ve never made it myself. I’ve had it several different ways in restaurants; it seems like everybody has their own little method.  So I had an idea of what I liked and didn’t like about the ones I’ve had.  Mushy eggplant, no thanks.  Greasy…eh. Crispy…mmmm.  But do I have to fry it to get it crispy?  Maybe not.  I looked at 5 or 6 different recipes.  Took tips and hints from here and there, tossed in my own marinara sauce and gave it a go.

And the results?  6 thumbs way up!

Crispy, crunchy, savory, yummy.  Great texture, just enough sauce to add flavor without swamping the eggplant.  Cheesy, melty wonderfulness.  I think I might be an eggplant fan.  Who’d have thought?

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

2-3 medium eggplant, sliced into disks about 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups panko
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup flour
1 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup half ‘n half
6 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. capers
1/2 cup red wine
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 oz. mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup parmesan
3-4 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or sliced into ribbons

Slice eggplant, toss with 1 tbsp. salt and put in a colander set over a large bowl.  Let sit for 30 minutes to drain out excess moisture.  Lay out a couple of paper towels, lay the slices on it, cover with another paper towel and press out any additional moisture.  Wipe off any excess salt.

Sliced eggplant. I was surprised at how much liquid came out of these!

While eggplant is draining, make sauce.  Use a blender or food processor to grind up the can of tomatoes.  In a pinch you can always just squeeze them up with your hands or a potato masher.  In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil, add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Stir and cook 1 minute or so.  Add canned tomatoes, wine and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes or so to reduce the sauce down a bit.  Stir in capers, cherry tomatoes and basil and set aside.

In one shallow dish, combine panko and 1 cup parmesan.  In another shallow dish whisk eggs with half ‘n half.  In a large ziplock bag combine flour and black pepper.  Set up a little assembly line for yourself.  Shake each slice in the flour bag, shake off excess flour, then dip into the egg mixture.  Coat both sides and lift out, letting the extra egg drip off.  Then into the panko mixture.  Coat both sides well and set on wax paper.  Continue until all slices are ready.

Eggplant assembly line.

Heat oven to 425˚. Put 2 cookie sheets in to preheat on two racks.  Take them out and coat each pan with 3 tbsp. of oil. Lay out the eggplant slices in a single layer.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Switch pans and cook another 10 minutes.  Flip all the slices with a spatula.  Cook another 10 minutes (30 minutes total cooking time).

Spray or oil a 13 x 9 casserole dish.  Start with 1/3 of the sauce.  Then layer half of the eggplant (overlap a bit if needed).  Then another 1/3 of sauce.  Dot with half of the mozzarella slices.  Then layer the other half of the eggplant slices.  Top with the remainder of the sauce. Dot with the rest of the mozzarella.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan.  Bake 15 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve hot!  Makes at least 6 servings.

Eggplant Parmesan.  Where’s my fork?

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