Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. This is seriously the truest of all cliches. Ladies, if you haven't learned this yet, it's probably not too late. Just make sure you really want him to stick around before you get him hooked.

No matter your feeling on eggplant in other preparations, there's no snubbing it in this dish. The eggplant is crisp, yet tender, and it is the ultimate comfort food, without being need-a-nap-now heavy. It's the quintessential dish that is best in it's most pure, fresh form. When a dish is about classic simplicity, the recipe usually is straight forward, and the ingredients should be the best you can find (this is what separates the just-okay from the great).

Luckily for us, eggplants are looking absolutely gorgeous, and you should be noticing their deep purple, taught, shiny skin is beaming with joy right now. So, go get you some, and make a delicious dish that will impress that lucky man in your life, or anyone else that enjoys a good meal!


* 1-2 eggplants
* 4 eggs
* All-purpose flour
* Bread crumbs
* 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
* 8-16 oz. sliced mozzarella (buffalo preferred)
* Fresh basil, for garnish
* 2 cups-1 quart marinara sauce (see my recipe, or buy your favorite from the store if you need to save a little time)
* Optional: spaghetti (for serving on the side)

Note on Range
* The range indicates how much you want to make.
* If you follow the lower end (1 eggplant, 8 oz. mozzarella, 2 cups marinara), then this will make about 2 layers of eggplant in a 9X13 inch dish. My favorite preparation is 4 layers, and if you want this amount then follow the high end. Just be warned that this is a lot of food, so share, or be prepared to enjoy leftovers for a few days (it reheats very well).
* It also depends on the size of the eggplant because they do vary greatly. This would be for medium-sized eggplants.

* Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch pieces (I personally like them as thin as I can get them).
* Lay the sliced eggplant onto a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. (I know this seems strange, but it brings out the moisture from the eggplant, and will make them more tender). Once the eggplant starts to sweat, after about 5 minutes, dry off with paper towel.
* Assemble your frying station for the eggplant. I like to pan fry mine. Lay out dishes for your flour, bread crumbs, and eggs (whisked) like so.
* Sorry there are no measurements for the flour and bread crumbs. What I do is put down a thick coating of the flour on a plate or shallow dish (season the flour up with a little salt and pepper) and do the same with the bread crumbs (except I grate a little Parmigiano Reggiano into the bread crumbs as well). When I start to run low, I will replenish as needed.

* So, here's what you need to pan fry the eggplant:
** Coat your pan in EVOO, and heat on medium high heat.
** Coat your eggplant pieces in the flour, then dip in the egg, and then dredge in the bread crumbs.
** I do this for as many as can fit in the pan, then fry those up, and repeat the process until they are all done. Be prepared with some plates or cutting boards lined with paper towels to let your finished fried eggplant pieces hang out until you are done. It should look like so:
* When you are done frying your eggplant, let cool until room temperature.
* Then, it is time to assemble the dish. Preheat oven to 350 F.
* Spoon a layer of marinara on the bottom of your dish. Then, put down a layer of eggplant, then a layer of marinara, mozzarella, and a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Each layer should look like this:
* Continue layering. Make sure to reserve enough mozzarella and a good amount Parm to top off the dish.
* Cook in oven for about 30-35 minutes. I increased the temperature to 400 for the last 5 minutes to brown the cheese on the top.
* While the dish is cooking, make some spaghetti (if you wish). Pasta is really wonderful with this dish, because it soaks up the excess marinara, and balances the cheesiness from the mozzarella. Also, would be very nice with some crusty bread.
* Serve with pasta or bread, and top with some more grated Parm and julienned Basil (see first picture). ENJOY!

~ Stay fresh!

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