I eat a whole lot more vegetables than I used to. Back in the day, when i worked in the deli, I had myself programmed that I didn’t like eggplant, so I missed out on the eggplant Milanese, rollatini, and alla parmigianna (aka parm) that we were making in the store.
When thinking up ideas for a cooking class, eggplant parm was a dish I wanted to revisit (or visit), as it is a good subject for a vegetarian meal.
Let’s be perfectly clear, though; this may be a vegetable dish, but it’s not exactly what most people would equate with healthy. It’s as rich and comforting as it gets.
I found a gigantic eggplant at Trader Joe. It was almost 3 pounds and costed under $4.
After removing the skin and slicing into 1/4 inch slices, I let the slices sit out with a little salt on a sheet pan. This step is crucial. The cellular structure of eggplant is bursting with water. The salt serves to promote osmosis (that is, diffusion of water) out of the cells. Doing this leads to tender and slightly chewy eggplant slices. If you try skipping this step, I don’t even want to know what happens, but don’t say I didn’t tell you.
After about an hour, I dried all the slices then put them through a standard breading procedure. Flour-egg-bread crumbs. For many, this type of breading is too thick with eggplant, so some people will blend the flour with just a little bread crumbs and start with the egg step. Make it however you want. The breading is what’s going to crisp up and give you texture.
Then they went into a skillet with oil at about 375°F for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
I let them cool on a rack and cut into one to
stuff my face capture the texture.
To make this into eggplant parm, I simply layered the slightly cooled slices with my basic tomato sauce, thin slices of fresh mozzarella, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
I only lightly apply the sauce because I don’t like things drenched in sauce. You want more sauce, add more!
This baked for like 10 to 15 minutes at 350°F.
I served it with fresh tagliatelle which I cooked in a little of my tomato sauce.
This was all for me, so I just lifted the baked eggplant parm from the pan onto a plate…
…and served the pasta on the side with some more freshly grated parmesan on top.
Eggplant has a slight bitterness that actually works well with cheese. I guess going through this whole exercise turned me into a fan of eggplant parm, because I absolutely loved it.
The beauty of this prep is that it’ll work with lots of stuff. Squash, zucchini, chicken, veal.
You can freeze the fried eggplant slices and defrost a few hours in advance for assembly, or, you can assemble unbaked trays of eggplant parm, freeze them, and bake them (covered) directly from the freezer. It’ll take a little longer to bake, but it beats the hell out of starting with fresh eggplant if you just want eggplant parm.