This photo does not begin to do justice to my husband Mike’s eggplant parmesan. It’s transcendent, as food bloggers love to say. Instead of just baking the eggplant slices, which often leaves them undercooked and tough, he adds cornmeal to the crust and deep fries them. They end up silky soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
You can even eat the eggplant slices plain like a fried green tomato, before you put them in the casserole dish with the sauce and cheese. That would be a great appetizer for a football viewing party, with some marinara on the side for dipping.
I’m an impatient cook, so I don’t often make recipes that require triple dipping and deep frying at a specific temperature. Too much precision, too big of a mess to clean up. But once in a while it’s fun to make something that takes a little more effort. And trust me, you’ll be rewarded with this recipe.
Here it is, with Mike’s signature humor.
- 2 medium to large eggplants, peeled and sliced into just under 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 large eggs
- All-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
- 1/2 cup corn meal (more or less if you want, adds crunch)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 48 oz jar of tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Congratulations, you have decided to spend your afternoon on eggplant.
- Slice eggplants and lay out on cookie sheets. Sprinkle salt liberally onto the slices, let sit for 15 minutes to draw water and bitterness out of the eggplant. Pat thoroughly dry, flip them over and salt the other side, 15 minutes again, dry them. Look, they need to be dry, ok?
- Set up three bowls or trays with high-ish sides for breading the eggplant. Put flour in one; beat the eggs in the next; mix breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, corn meal, oregano, basil, salt and pepper into the third.
- Heat oil (olive oil will not work well for this: it has too low of a smoke point) in a cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees for deep frying. Use a candy or probe thermometer -- keeping the temp between 350 and 400 is important.
- Now bread the eggplant slices, 3 or 4 at a time, however many will fit into your skillet at one time. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. Dip in egg, let excess drip off. Dredge in breading, shake off everything that's loose. There's a lesson here about shaking off excess. Pause to ponder. Then slide slices carefully into the oil, and fry on each side until golden-brown. An Asian-style wire frying basket works well for turning the eggplant. After frying on both sides, place on cookie cooling rack to drip.
- Fry all them eggplants. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a deep lasagna-size dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. Cover with more sauce, then half the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, mozzarella. Add Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is appropriately melted/browned to satisfy your particular innermost desires.
- Let stand 5 minutes before serving.