Previously, I posted an Eggplant Parmesan recipe made in the traditional manner: coated fried eggplant, slathered with marinara sauce, and topped with mozzarella. This was baked to fully cook the eggplant and melt the cheese. What I ended up with was mushy eggplant, soggy crust, bland marinara, and rubbery mozzarella. I knew no different.
Until I watched an America’s Test Kitchen episode where they made Chicken Parmesan. Significant changes were made, thus producing a crispy crust, fresh-tasting marinara, and melty cheese. Of course, I substituted eggplant for the chicken.
What changes, you ask? They used panko crumbs in lieu of bread crumbs for a crunchy coat. They cut the mozzarella with Italian Fontina to achieve a nice melt without being rubbery. They added the marinara sauce at the end to retain the fresh tomato taste and crispy crust. And, finally, they didn’t bake the heck out of it – in fact, they merely broiled it enough to melt the cheese. Brilliant!!!
NOTE: A Queen Of Freeze time-saving tip is to double or triple the marinara recipe. Then freeze it in portions for future use. Don’t add the basil before freezing, though – it will lose it’s potency.
CRISPY EGGPLANT PARMESAN
- 2 eggplants (about 1½ pounds total)
- kosher salt
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano, divided
- 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (discard stem ends & peels)
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 2 T fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 c panko crumbs
- 3/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 T flour
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Italian Fontina cheese
Remove ends of unpeeled eggplants and discard. Cut into 3/4″ pieces. Lay rounds on a wire rack and sprinkle 1/8 tsp of kosher salt on each side of slices. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw out water from the eggplant. Prepare the marinara: In a saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil. Add in the garlic, 1/4 tsp table salt, 1/4 tsp oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds to bloom. Add the canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook 20 minutes, uncovered. Stir now and then. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the basil and remaining 1 T olive oil. Set aside.In a bowl, mix together panko, Parmesan, garlic powder, 1/4 tsp oregano, and pepper. Pour onto a large plate.
Using a spoon, mix together the flour and egg, smashing out the flour lumps as best you can. Pour onto a large plate.
Wipe down both sides of eggplant slices with paper towel to remove excess salt. Heat several tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Dredge eggplant slices first into egg (both sides),and then into panko mix (both sides)Place into skillet, frying both sides to golden brown.Place eggplant on a broiler pan and preheat broiler with rack in upper third of oven.
Combine Fontina and mozzarella. Sprinkle cheese on eggplant. Broil about 3 minutes, until cheese is melted.To serve, top with marinara. Sprinkle on additional basil, if desired.