“…this is good s#!t !…”
I have never really considered eggplant until just a couple of years ago when I stumbled upon this excellent recipe by Alex Guarnaschelli. As she introduces her recipe, she claims that it could be the last thing she would eat on earth. What are you saying, Alex? You’re saying this eggplant Parm is that good? Yuppers. Yes indeedy. I will vouch for her. This is good s#!t ! And for a girl who had never ever thought of eggplant in years gone by, it has now become a side-staple in our house. Side-staple? Yeah, like I mean, we have eggplant several times a year as opposed to weekly. So instead of a staple, it’s a side-staple, ya?
In Alex’s recipe, she gives the optional instruction of salting the eggplant slices and letting them sit for an hour in order to draw excess water and bitterness out. I highly recommend this step! You won’t have a soggy Parmigiana which is really nice.
Instead of the traditional breadcrumbs for breading the eggplant, I used Panko breadcrumbs because they’re lighter and crunchier and yummier. Also I have incorporated fresh herbs into the Panko mixture which gave it outstanding flavour. And can we talk about the tomato sauce in this? She suggests the best canned ‘matoes – San Marzanos. But if you can’t find those, canned plum tomatoes are just as good. This simple sauce with the red pepper flakes and the garlic and the onion is something I could just eat on it’s own. And there are so many fresh herbs in this dish! That, paired with the luscious ‘matoes, it’s practically health food!
Alex’s recipe calls for sliced Mozza and shredded Provolone cheese, which I know is absolutely heavenly. But this time due to laziness and pretty much what I had in my refrigerator, I opted for pre-shredded Mozza/Cheddar. Either way kids, you can’t go wrong. It’s cheese for goodness sakes!
So at the end of the day after all of the layering and arranging, you are going to serve this to your lovelies, and I. Guarantee. It. They will swoon. Then faint. Then have some more. Thank You Alex G for such an inspiring and delish dish. ♥
- For The Sauce:
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large sweet onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes
- For The Eggplant:
- 2 medium eggplants, washed and cut into ½-inch thick rounds (about 2½ pounds)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 4 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 4 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
- Avocado or vegetable oil for frying, about 1½ to 2 cups
- 3 cups shredded Mozzarella/Cheddar combo, or your choice
- 2 cups grated Parmesan
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
- For the tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions become translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, then the sugar. Use a potato masher to break up the whole tomatoes and let simmer about 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed. Set aside to cool.
- Arrange the eggplant rounds in a single layer on 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt on both sides of each slice and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. Salting it draws out the liquid and bitter flavor. After an hour, rinse with cold water and dry them thoroughly with a kitchen towel.
- Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a third bowl, combine the Panko crumbs with the fresh oregano, thyme and parsley. Dip each eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip in the egg mixture, and then into the Panko mixture. Lightly coat both sides of each slice of eggplant. It's not necessary to have them fully coated. Arrange them in single layers on the baking sheets.
- In a large skillet, pour enough avocado or vegetable oil to accumulate about ½-inch in the bottom. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly. Carefully add your prepared eggplant rounds to the hot pan, being sure to give them room so they're not crowded. Cook them until they are golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Remove from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel so the eggplant can drain as the others cook. Remove any stragglers crumbs from the pan and reheat the oil back up to temperature before adding another batch of slices to the pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- To assemble: In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, spoon about ¼ of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Top with a layer of the fried eggplant; the eggplant slices can overlap slightly. Top with 1 cup of shred cheese and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Spoon sauce and a layer of torn basil leaves, and repeat the layering 1 to 2 more times. End with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let stand for 10 minutes after removing from the oven, and serve and enjoy!