Monday, August 30, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant is one of those things most people either love or hate. Often the people who hate eggplant haven't even tried it.  Two of the most popular methods for cooking eggplant are Asian stir fry or the classic Italian Eggplant Parmesan. The other week I got eggplant in my co-op basket and decided to make Eggplant Parmesan for the first time. Now I have had it many times before but honestly it isn't my favorite dish. I find that sometimes it is really good and well some times it really isn't.  If eggplant isn't prepared well it can become slimy or bitter. I normally avoid ordering at a restaurant because I never know if I will like it. I checked out a few recipes and this is what I came up with.  It turned out fabulous. My family loved, even my 18 month old who had 4 helpings!  I will definitely make again but this is not an every day dish. The cheese along makes it a little pricey and it is definitely not low on calories. Plus it takes some time to prepare so not something I will be doing after a day of work but it really is quite simple and very much worth the effort! I will most likely save for Sunday dinner or when company is coming over.

Eggplant Parmesan
1 medium to large eggplant
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup of flour
1 bottle of spaghetti sauce (homemade would be even better)
1 large can (I used a quart of home canned) Italian tomatoes
2 small cans of tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves
2 - 3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
1 medium ball of fresh mozzarella (6-8 oz)
1 cup of fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Canola Oil

Directions: Slice eggplant lengthwise and then into half moons approximately 1/4 inch thick.  Salt eggplant. While eggplant is sweating gather rest of ingredients.  Prepare dredging dishes. I do a paper plate for the flour first. I added salt and pepper to the flour.  Then quickly beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.  Finally you will need the panko breadcrumbs in a plate. Add 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning to the breadcrumbs. Reserve 3 tablespoons of crumbs for the top of the dish. Heat about 2 tablespoons each canola and olive oil.  Olive oil has a low smoke point and since you will be frying I like to mix with canola to raise the smoke point.  I used a 12" fry pan. If you are using a smaller pan reduce the oil amount.  Bring oil to medium high heat.  Depending on how much eggplant you are frying you may need to add more oil in between batches.

In a medium sauce pan combine the Italian tomatoes, sauces and crushed garlic.  Bring to a boil. Depending on the sauces you used you might need to add additional salt, pepper or herbs. Preheat oven to 350.

Pat dry the eggplant with a paper towel.  Remove as much moisture as possible.  Dredge lightly in flour making sure to shake off excess. Dip in egg mixture making sure to coat both sides and again shake off excess.  Finally dredge in breadcrumbs. Gently press the breadcrumbs to ensure they adhere to the eggplant.  Pan fry for about 1-3 minutes per side depending on heat. You want a deep golden brown.  You will need to do in batches to make sure you don't crowd the pan.  If you put too many in the pan at once you will loose heat and the eggplant will soak up the oil and not fry properly. Place the fried eggplant on a paper towel to drain as you move onto the next batch. 

In a 9x13 casserole dish put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Now cover bottom with fried eggplant. Slice the mozzarella cheese into thin slices and put about 1/2 on top of eggplant.  It won't cover all the eggplant but that's OK because it will melt nicely into the dish.  Now sprinkle with about a 1/3 cup of Parmesan.  Top with 1/2 of the sauce.  Repeat layer one more time.  Now add the reserved breadcrumbs to the top and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbling, cheese melted and golden brown.  Let rest at least 5-10 minutes. 

This equals about 6 servings.  You can simply adjust to make more.  The casserole dish could easily hold more.  Also I added about 1/2 pound of mild Italian sausage to my sauce simply because my family thinks dinner must have meat.  My husband also likes very thick sauces. If you like more sauce you will want to increase the amount of tomato sauce in the dish.  Enjoy!

Panko Breadcrumbs: If you haven't ever used panko breadcrumbs I highly recommend. They are Japanese style and have a coarser texture. I find they hold up my better in dishes like this where you fry something then bake with a sauce.

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