Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

During our trip to France in the fall of 2017, I developed a fascination with eggplant. It started with Ratatouille and spread to Eggplant Parmesan.

A lot of recipes instruct you to salt and drain the eggplant, but I find this step completely unnecessary. I buy my globe eggplants fresh, as evidenced by their beautiful, dark, glossy skin and then make a point of using them within a day or two. I guess my approach to this recipe works because our friend Cindy declared it was the best Eggplant Parmesan she had ever tasted. Now that is a vote of confidence!

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  Center two racks in the oven; start preheating to 425°F “Convection” (verify with an oven thermometer). Meanwhile, prepare eggplant. Ovens often run hot or cold or preheat slowly.
1 (1 pound) globe eggplant Cut into 24 slices, each approximately ⅓ inch thick.  
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
In a shallow bowl, whisk together with a fork. Flour helps the other layers bind to eggplant.
3 large eggs In a second shallow bowl, whisk until loose and frothy. Egg binds bread crumbs.
6 ounces white bread
2 ounces (½ cup) grated Parmesan
For a third shallow bowl, roughly tear up bread and pulse in a food processor with Parmesan until fine. Working with one piece at a time, use tongs to plunge and turn eggplant in each of the three mixtures (flour, egg, and then bread crumbs). Bread crumbs produce a crispy crust once baked. Using a fork minimizes the mess.
Parchment paper Arrange across 2 lined half sheet pans. Bake until bread crumb coating is amber (12-14 minutes). Set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 350°F. Parchment lined pans promote a crispier coating as compared to buttered pans. There is no need to turn during baking.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
Heat oil in a 12-inch tri-ply everyday pan over medium heat until it thins and shimmers (2-3 minutes). Add garlic, cooking until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Regular (inexpensive) olive oil is used here because heating destroys the subtle flavors of extra-virgin. A wide, low pan expedites sauce reduction.
56 ounces canned petite diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Add remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer, where bubbles continually break the surface without spattering. Hold at a simmer, occasionally stirring with a bamboo spatula until reduced to 4 cups (8-10 minutes).

Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head, cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife on top; strike hard to crush. Release skin and discard. Rock blade over garlic to mince.

Garlic presses waste garlic flesh, and a knife is easier to clean.
1 pound low-moisture mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
With a thinly bladed knife (a filet knife works well) cut into 24 slices, each approximately ¼ inch thick. Low-moisture cheese will not make eggplant soggy.
  In a 4-quart capacity 9×13-inch baking dish, smear 1/2 cup sauce across the bottom. Create 8 towers of sauce, eggplant, Parmesan, and mozzarella:
8 eggplant slices
⅓ cup Parmesan
8 mozzarella slices
½ cup sauce
8 eggplant slices
⅓ cup Parmesan
8 mozzarella slices
½ cup sauce
8 eggplant slices
⅓ cup Parmesan
½ cup sauce
8 mozzarella slices
A baking dish is nonreactive with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, whereas aluminum creates gray discoloration and off flavors.
  Spoon 1 cup sauce between eggplant towers, reserving remaining 1 cup. Bake uncovered until mozzarella is amber at the edges (28-32 minutes). Rest 10 minutes. The extra sauce prevents burning without making the dish soggy.
16 whole fresh basil leaves
16-20 julienned basil leaves
To serve, spoon 2 tablespoons reserved sauce on each plate; place an eggplant tower on top, tuck in 2 basil leaves, and finish with julienned basil. Reserved sauce adds freshness and flavor.

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