Old School Eggplant Parmesan

Old School Eggplant Parmesan

Old School Eggplant Parmesan


I love eggplant parmesan. Who doesn’t? It’s meaty without meat, cheesy without a busload of ricotta and, done right, rich without being a brick in your stomach. Plus, it doesn’t require me to remember to defrost, or have bought meat of any kind. It’s this last point that makes it the biggest winner for me. Well, that and the fact that it’s another variation on my famous pasta! theme that I’ve got going (It’s like a game, let’s see how many nights in a row we can make a different pasta type item because Mama forgot to buy the ingredients or do the prep work for some other meal. See, everything’s fun if you make a game out of it. Really, I promise. That’s what Mary Poppins said, right?) Anyway, you’re probably wondering how I have eggplants on hand, but not chicken. That answers varies. If I’m really lucky I’ve just picked an eggplant fresh from my garden or gotten one from my mother’s garden. Otherwise, perhaps I purchased one from the Wednesday farmer’s market (provided they weren’t too ungodly expensive. (I’m very much in favor of supporting small, family farms, but really $3.50 per lb. for tomatoes! Ouch that’s a damn expensive pot of pasta sauce.) Otherwise my husband has bought one at Meijer’s in hopes that I’ll make this very dish. And who could disappoint a husband as wonderful as mine?

This recipe is adapted from Leone’s Italian Restaurant cookbook which is written by an Italian restaurateur of the oldest old school. This is Italian-American as his little Italian mother used to cook it. I love this book. Everything I make in it comes out beautifully and reading the history of the recipes and the restaurant is a blast. Dwight D Eisenhower! wrote the intro and Leone’s lasagna recipe is (or was) used at West Point.

My changes are mainly procedural and swapping fresh for dried that a purest would frown on, but they make it cook faster and still taste great.

Serves 4

Reheats well, but I would add extra sauce so that it doesn’t dry out.

Kid Friendly tasks: Add the cheese lumps on top of each eggplant slice.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 Generous tbs Garlic (I like a lot of garlic, if you don’t, start with half this amount, taste and work up)
  • 1.5 tsp dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 2 15 oz cans of Tomato Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Butter

 

Eggplant slices

  • 1 Large Eggplant (I’m thinking those great big deep purple one that you buy at the store. If your eggplant is smaller than this, buy two)
  • 1 Fist sized ball fresh mozzarella that comes in a sealed package in the cheese section (or just use the stuff in the Kraft package if that’s what you’ve got)
  • 1.5 c Bread crumbs either regular or Italian flavored (if you’re using regular, add a 1 tsp oregano to your breadcrumbs)
  • Pinch Salt and Pepper
  • ½ tsp Seasoned Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • ¼ Olive Oil for frying

The key, in my opinion, to really good eggplant parmesan is to slice your eggplant relatively thinly, somewhere between a quarter inch and a half (okay so a centimeter is the perfect width, but as a good American, I refuse to think in metric) not more. The eggplant is, after all, simply a carrier for the breading on the top. Plus, thinner eggplant cook through faster which means the whole thing takes less time in the oven and can be made on a weeknight.

Directions

  1. Slice your eggplant thinly, as mentioned above. Sprinkle lightly with salt and lay slices between paper towels. Put something heavy on top of them like another plate. Ideally it should sit like this for at least an hour. What I normally do is slice them the minute I get home, run around and do everything else, make sauce and then come back to them. You can (and believe me I have) just slice them and cook them, it’s just not ideal. The reason for the time and the weight on top is to draw out some of the moisture and bitterness so that they fry better. They do fry better if you observe this step, however, they work okay too if you don’t.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper (fry one and taste, then adjust up as needed), and seasoned salt in one small bowl. Add oregano if using regular breadcrumbs. In a second bowl, crack and beat the two eggs.
  4. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, plus about 1 tbsp butter. Rinse and pat dry each eggplant slice. Dip each slice first into the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs. Coat thoroughly. As you prep them, drop them one by one into the hot oil until your pan is full. Cook until golden brown on each side (start checking after about 4 mins). Lay the spare slices on paper towel to drain while you fry the rest of your slices. Keep adding oil and butter as you use them up in the pan. It usually takes me between two and three rounds of frying to finish all of my slices and the amounts above are guestimates of how much oil and butter you’ll use.
  5. In a heavy bottom baking dish (I use a 9×9 glass baking dish, but the shape doesn’t matter). Spread a thin layer of sauce, probably about a quarter cup or so. Lay the eggplant slices side by side or overlapping slightly depending on the shape of your dish. Cover with little chunks of your mozzarella cheese ball (my son is my go to expert for this task.) Drizzle with another layer of sauce. Repeat with additional layers of eggplant and cheese until you have used both up (I typically get two layers out of one eggplant in my aforementioned 9×9 dish). Top the final layer with sauce. If you have extra sauce, save it for leftovers as I find they are always under sauced.
  6. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and eggplant is cooked through. If your slices were thicker, cook a bit longer. This dish is fairly forgiving if it stays in the over a bit longer so you have time to prep something as a side.

Serve as a side or over pasta. Carry it proudly to the table and hear “Eggplant Parmesan, that’s not what I wanted at all. Can I not have any eggplant” Sigh…

Eggplant Parmesan

Old School Eggplant Parmesan

 

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