Over-the-Top Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe
For this no-holds-barred eggplant parmigiana, the eggplant is breaded with panko and pan-fried, layered with fresh mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce, finished in the oven, and then topped with a dice of fresh heirloom tomatoes. It makes a satisfying entrée, and you need only add a green salad to make a celebratory dinner. I don’t salt and drain eggplant for most uses, but it is worthwhile in this recipe.
Extracting some of the liquid makes the eggplant fry up firm yet fork-tender. You don’t want any mush factor in your parmigiana. Here’s a great tip for breading. Use one hand to put the eggplant in the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Use the other hand to toss the eggplant in the bread crumbs and into the skillet. By keeping one hand for the wet stuff and the other for the dry, you avoid getting your hands breaded along with the eggplant! The finest canned tomatoes for Italian dishes come from the area of San Marzano; look for that name on the can.
- 3 large or 5 smaller globe eggplants (about 4 pounds total)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 1 cup all-purpose fl our
- 3 cups panko bread crumbs
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- Vegetable oil, for pan-frying
- 12 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 1⁄2 cups diced vine-ripened tomatoes (only truly good, ripe tomatoes will do here; don’t use those supermarket ones ripened with ethylene gas)
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Peel the eggplants and slice lengthwise into planks a scant 1⁄2 inch thick. Layer in a colander with a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt between each layer, top with a plate, and weight with some cans. Set aside on a plate to drain for at least 30 minutes. Wipe off excess salt with a paper- towel.
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, while you make the rest of the recipe. Don’t add salt, because the eggplant will still have residual salt from the draining process.
3. Set up a rack or baking sheet covered with paper towels for draining the fried eggplant. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°F.
4. Set up for dredging, with plates for the fl our and bread crumbs and a shallow bowl for the eggs. Heat a good 1⁄4 inch of vegetable oil in your biggest skillet over high heat. Working with two slices of eggplant at a time, pat them in the fl our until they have a dry coating, then drag through the egg, and finally press both sides in the bread crumbs, covering thoroughly. Place them in the skillet, where they should start sizzling immediately. Don’t pack them in too tightly in the skillet; leave yourself some room to work. Flip when brown, about 2 minutes, then brown on the other side. They should be fork-tender at this point (the oven time is just to melt the cheese, not cook the eggplant). Transfer the eggplant to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more vegetable oil as necessary.
5. To assemble, set down your first layer of eggplant in the prepared baking dish, and top each slice with a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce, a piece of mozzarella, a bit of Parmigiano, and a bit of basil. Build up three layers, finishing with cheese.
6. Bake until the cheese is thoroughly melted, about 20 minutes.
7. To serve: Toss the diced tomatoes with the basil and a pinch of salt. Put an eggplant stack on each plate, and top with 1⁄4 cup of the tomato salad and a grind of fresh black pepper.
Recipe © 2012 by Michael Natkin and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.