I love eggplant parmesan. I didn't always, but a few years ago I tried making one for the first time and fell head over heels. It's not something I tackle that often, though, because it's a major time investment for me and by the end it's possible I'll be cranky, tired, and not hungry any more.
Still, it's worth it.
Liv has been bugging me to make one for a while, and since she'll be departing for an extended vacation soon (without me), I figured now's as good a time as any. As luck would have it, we stopped by the Fort Greene farmer's market on Saturday and found some gorgeous eggplant.
My fate was sealed.
Something to note before I dive in–I highly recommend that if you're going to make this that you do it on a day when you have ample free time. The way I make it, it's a long process, and I made the mistake of making this on a Monday night when I really needed to get to bed early, so I felt rushed the whole time. Feeling rushed is no fun and is no way to enjoy eating, so try and give yourself an afternoon to do this. Another option is to get it ready to bake, then wait and actually finish it off the next day.
Without further ado:
Brian's Eggplant Parmesan
2 lbs fresh eggplant (about two large ones from the grocery store or four smaller ones from a farmers' market)
1.5-2 lbs fresh mozzarella (two balls) sliced into 1/4" slices
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1-2 tbsp mined garlic
6-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1-2 fresh sage leaves, crushed or chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the eggplants and slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Some people like them thicker, but I don't. Slices this thin create more work (because you end up with more slices), but I personally think it's worth it. Place a layer of eggplant slices in a colander in your sink, and liberally sprinkle kosher salt over them. Continue to layer in eggplant and salt until all of the eggplant is in the colander, then stack some plates on them to drain. The idea is to pull out as much moisture from the eggplant as possible. Let the eggplant drain for 1-2 hours.
While the eggplant is draining, you can start the sauce. In a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan, heat up 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the minces garlic. Once the garlic is soft, add the tomatoes and crushed or chopped sage leaves, and a little salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer while you're draining the eggplant, stirring from time to time.
When the eggplant is drained, remove the slices and brush off any excess salt. Lay the slices on paper towels to drain further. You can even put another paper town over them to pull off more moisture.
In one bowl, combine the flour and breadcrumbs, and have the beaten eggs in another. Put about half an inch of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the oil is simmering, dredge each eggplant slice first in the flour/breadcrumb mixture then in the egg, then place in the hot oil. Cook each slice until golden brown on each side, then remove and set on paper towels. Do this for all the eggplant slices.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Once the sauce has cooked for a while and the eggplant is all fried, you're ready to begin final assembly. Start with a thin layer of sauce along the bottom of the dish, following by a layer of eggplant, then a layer of mozzarella cheese, parmigiano reggiano, and basil. Do this 2 more times, finishing it off with all of the remaining cheese and basil.
Bake for 30 minutes, until te top layer of cheese begins to brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
There you have it. It's one of my favorite dishes, but it's really something I prefer not to attempt on a weekday evening because of how long I spend with it. Sure, you can spend less time draining the eggplant or use thicker slices so there's less to fry, but some things are worth taking your time with.