Eggplant Parm? Oh hell yeah!
Thank god things finally cooled off a little in this hellhole we call Boston. I wasn’t about to turn the oven on this week, and I had an eggplant in the fridge, patiently waiting to be put to good use. And I was deadset on making eggplant parmesan. “Why,” you might ask, “in the heated hot humidity of August, does a girl want to make eggplant parm?” Well I have no good answer to that question, but it got in my head and I couldn’t shake it out. And finally, today, with nary a trace of damp stickiness in the air, today was my day. Or the eggplant’s day, rather.
I gotta tell you, people, this was glorious. I never made eggplant parmesan before and I rocked its pants off. I wish I wasn’t the only person around these parts who eats eggplant, but hey, more for me. The tomato sauce was light and just the right amount of tang and sweet, the eggplant didn’t mush up at all, the seasonings were just right and the copious gloopy beautiful mounds of melted cheese…oh, that is bliss, my friends. Heavenly cheesy bliss.
It came to me halfway through the process that the key to a truly great eggplant parm must lie in the frying, which made me worry. I am not that experienced in the ways of the frying. But I must have done something right. The good kitchen karma has just been flying around here lately. If my stomach wasn’t about to explode, I’d go back in the kitchen and eat some more.
I’m not sure if eggplant parm is traditionally served over pasta, but I went ahead and did it anyway, because I like pasta and that made it feel like more of a meal. Barilla now makes a fettucini regate that I had to try out. Maybe they’ve always made the fettucini regate but I never saw it before. I like the regate–helps all the saucy sauce stick to the pasta more better. Made me happy.
This will definitely make a repeat appearance, especially if I can find me some people who like eggplant. It was much easier than I was expecting, and so much more delicious. I felt like a little Italian grandmother or something. I felt like I wanted to be feeding more people than just me with such a tasty treat. Good thing it’ll make good leftovers: Eggplant parm sandwiches, here I come.
Lordy lord, I should stop swooning and get to the recipe already.
Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
- 3 c. fresh tomato sauce (I made my own, and will put the recipe up separately)
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 c. breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- a few shakes of black pepper
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 1 1/2 c. grated whole-milk mozzarella (for the love of it, people, leave the part-skim on the shelf. Life's too short.)
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan
- fettucini (if you feel like eatin' some pasta)
First thing's first: You should probably salt the eggplant. Some people say you should always do it. Some people say only if the eggplant is old. Some people say it's always unnecessary. I say it can't hurt, right? Slice the eggplant into half inch thick pieces, lay them out on a paper towel, and sprinkle them all over with a bit of salt. You don't have to douse the guys, just a little touch will do. Let them sit for about 20 or 30 minutes. Liquid will seep out, taking any bitter little flavor ruiners out with it. After it's been sitting for awhile you can wipe the salt and the liquid away and you're ready to go.
Put the flour in one shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs and the olive oil in a small bowl, and in another shallow dish mix together the breadcrumbs, oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess. Dip the slice quickly into the egg mixture (you don't need to soak it, just a quick bath will do), then dredge it into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down a bit to make sure each slice is nicely coated with a thin, crumby layer. Set each slice out on the paper towel again to drain and let everything settle in and make friends, just for about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Heat half a cup of olive oil in a large skillet or a big huge saucepan. Once it's hot and shimmery, you're ready to fry the eggplant. I had to do the whole thing in about four batches. Pay attention to the oil and the heat, so it doesn't get too hot and burn the eggplant. Each slice needs about three minutes per side. I started out with four minutes per side and it was too much; they burned. As you fish the fried slices out of the oil, let them rest on those paper towels again to soak up some of the extra oil.
Spread about a cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 11 inch baking dish. Then lay the eggplant over the tomato sauce in one layer; it's ok if they overlap a little. Sprinkle just a bit more dried oregano and a bit more black pepper over the eggplant slices, then spread the rest of the tomato sauce over them to cover them up nicely. Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan over that. Stick the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly and just slightly starting to brown. You can cook the pasta while the eggplant is in the oven if you want it.