While eggplant has certainly found its way into meals I’ve eaten on many occasions, I guess you could say I’m a bit ambivalent about it. There have been times when I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it in a dish, and other times where I actually wanted to spit it out. Thus, it’s not an ingredient I purchase often to use at home. However, I was recently draw into reading a blog post about Eggplant Parmesan on The Bitten Word (one of my fave food blogs), because what they said about the dish mirrored my own personal feelings. The words “gloppy” and “mushy” were used. I could relate.
Those are a couple of the reasons I’d never thought to whip up an Eggplant Parmesan in my own kitchen. But as the guys of TBW described a series of new techniques that made them change their tune about the dish, I began to wonder- would it do the same for me?
The answer is a wholehearted YES!
The steps included cutting the eggplant into “planks” rather than rounds, coating in a mixture of panko crumbs and Parmesan, briefly frying and then baking, and then adding the sauce as a final step right before serving. I truly believe these techniques are the key to a perfect Eggplant Parm…at least for my taste!
Even the hubby gobbled it up, and complimented it, which isn’t always the case with our meatless dishes. It was substantial and filling, and best of all, delicious. The crunch of the panko, the gooey, melted cheese, the tomato sauce – it all comes together to make the best Eggplant Parmesan I personally have ever had. It was so good, in fact, that I made it twice in one week. No doubt that it will make a regular appearance in our Meatless Monday rotation!
Eggplant Parmesan for Two
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil*
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp dried basil**
½ cup shredded provolone cheese
*Using regular olive oil is fantastic, but for one batch, I used a Basil flavored olive oil from Olivia Nashville and it was incredible!
**the recipe called for fresh basil, but I wasn't able to find any at the grocery, so I just used some dried. Once basil is back in season, I'll try it with the fresh!
BREAD EGGPLANT. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of eggplant, halve each plank crosswise, and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice. Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes.
COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook -eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ -teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.
ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Serve.
Need further guidance on cutting the eggplant?
First, using a serrated knife, slice off each side of eggplant (reserve) and cut two ¾-inch planks from the center. Next, cut the planks in half crosswise so they’ll neatly fit into the pan for frying in a single batch. Lastly, cut reserved side pieces into strips, then into ½-inch cubes, and set aside for use in the sauce.