Eggplant parmesan is a dish that is a little involved, but by no means difficult. You have to batter and fry the eggplant (I’ve tried skipping this step, and let me tell you from experience that it is there for a reason; you NEED it!) before you layer the dish (like lasagna) which is why it takes longer to make. If you have an extra hour for dinner, though, it is totally worth it. I made marinara from scratch (see my previous post about the Great Tomato Invasion of ’09) but you could just as easily use canned tomatoes, or a jar of pre-made sauce.
You’re basically getting two recipes for the price of one in this post, because I’m going to give you my recipe for marinara sauce. Marinara is a critical component-too little and the whole dish is too dry, but you don’t want too much either or you end up with more of an eggplant sauce than an eggplant parmesan.
In short, do not be afraid of multi-step dishes! They are easy, I swear it. Make this for your Mom the next time she comes over for dinner. She will be so impressed that not only can you cook, but that you eat your veggies. Mothers love that shit.
1 medium to large eggplant (see picture below)
1 C (ish) breadcrumbs
1 C flour
2-4 C of cheese, mozzarella, jack, provolone, one or all three. Whatever you have or prefer.
1-2 C Parmesan
This is an eggplant.
Cut your eggplant into 1/2″ (ish) slices.
Now you’ve got to drain the eggplant (annoying, but necessary) in a colander for 1-2 hours. Layer the eggplant in a strainer, putting a single layer of eggplant, salting the layer, topping it with more eggplant and salting again.
Put something heavy on it and leave it for at least an hour.
While you wait for the eggplant to catch up, make the sauce.
I forgot to take picture of the sauce bit, so I hope you will forgive me!
1.5 – 2 lbs fresh tomatoes
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 jar of pre-made pasta sauce
½ medium or 1 small onion, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
Splash of dry red wine (you can leave this out if you want)
Ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp sugar
1-1.5 TB fresh basil, sliced, or 2 tsp dry
If you are using fresh tomatoes:
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil. It has to be big enough to contain all of the tomatoes under the water. Take each tomato and cut a shallow X onto the bottom of each. When the water starts boiling, slowly put the tomatoes into the water and allow them to boil for 30 seconds. Allow the tomatoes to cool by plunging them into an ice bath. When they are cool, peel them and squeeze the seeds and juices out. Chop up the rest of the pulp and put aside for now.
Pour 2 TB of olive oil into a pan and heat. Add the onion and the garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the wine and allow it to boil for a minute before adding the tomatoes, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and sugar. If you are using dry basil, add it now. If you have a stick blender or a potato masher, blend the sauce up a bit to give it a thicker consistency. If you don’t have either of these things don’t worry about it.
Your sauce will be kind of thin, especially if you used fresh tomatoes.
Simmer it for at least 20 minutes. The sauce will thicken and should look more like this.
If you are using fresh basil, add it after the sauce has simmered.
Ta da! Marinara sauce.
Put the sauce aside, you are going to use it later when you assemble the parmesan.
Right now (if the time is up on the eggplant draining) you are going to batter and fry your eggplant.
Take out your eggplant slices and line them on paper towels, patting them dry as you go.
Get two wide, shallow bowls and put the eggs in one and the breadcrumbs and flour in the other. Mix up the flour and breadcrumbs and scramble the egg but don’t add anything.
Get a deep frying pan (cast iron is the best but just use what you have) and fill it with 1/2″ of canola (or veggie) oil. Heat the oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Another way to check is if you drop a bit of the breadcrumb mix into the oil it should start to fry immediately and then rise to the surface.
Once the oil is ready, you are going to take an eggplant slice. Dip both sides in the egg, then coat it with the breadcrumb mix and slowly put it in the oil. Fry on both sides for about 45 sec, until it is golden brown. Layer between paper towels to drain (layer of eggplant, layer of paper towels, repeat). You can fry about 2 slices at a time, but not too much more than that. If you over-crowd the pan the temperature of the oil will actually lower and you don’t want that.
Repeat for the rest of the slices.
Preheat the oven to 350˚, and you are going to layer some more! Get a glass baking dish, the one I used was rectangular, I think 10×15.
Put a layer of sauce, layer of eggplant, layer of cheese, layer of parmesan. Repeat until all the ingredients are gone, making sure that you end with a cheese layer.
Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melty and slightly browned on the edges.
Let cool for 15 minutes, then cut and serve.
NOM NOM NOM!