CRISPY EGGPLANT PARMESAN: New And Improved!!!

eggplant parm textPreviously, 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. eggplant salt sprinklePrepare 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.marinaraIn 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),eggplant dipped in eggand then into panko mix (both sides)eggplant dipped in pankoPlace into skillet, frying both sides to golden brown.eggplant friedPlace 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.eggplant melted cheeseTo serve, top with marinara. Sprinkle on additional basil, if desired.eggplant parm cropped

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Eggplant Parmesan – The Easy Way?

Eggplant Parmesan Dinner

Eggplant Parmesan Dinner

I actually got one thing in my life organized:  I finally compiled a list of meal ideas.  Every time I make a new dish that warrants repeating, on the list it goes.  So whenever I can’t figure out what to make for dinner, or  just want to remind myself of past successes, I pull out my handy dandy list.  I even organized it by categories (i.e., main dishes, soups, etc.). How’s THAT for  a shocker – my list is even organized.

So I was having one of those days when nothing sounded good.  I pulled out my List (capitalizing the ‘L’ makes it official), and there was EGGPLANT PARMESAN.  I’d forgotten all about that tasty dish.  It wouldn’t even be too time consuming, especially if I had some frozen leftover marinara sauce.  Hoping against hope, I checked my freezer.  Rats!  My hopes were dashed.  Oh, well – I decided to make extra this time and save myself a little work in the future.  The rest of the meal was easy:  broccoli, cauliflower, and mushy peas. Mushy Peas, you say?  What the heck are they?  Check my post from March 5, 2014:  Mushy Peas: A Super-Food Disguised As A Side Dish!

Not to burst your bubble about my culinary skills, but I take shortcuts when I can.  I realize there are master chefs the world over who take hours to concoct their marinara sauces and will be revolted by my recipe, but….whatever!  I’m busy, this recipe tastes good enough, and – to be honest – I really don’t want to spend all day making a sauce for a dish where the eggplant and the mozzarella are the stars.  I, at least, make the sauce before doing anything else so it cooks for a little bit of time.

This marinara sauce recipe makes enough for 2 eggplant parmesan dinners.  Remember, freeze the unused sauce for future use.  I recommend you double this recipe so you have even more sauce to freeze.  As long as you’re cooking, you may as well do a little extra chopping and measuring – the payoff comes when you only have to wash the dishes once, PLUS you have sauce on those days when you’re short on time….like, everyday, right?

NOTE:  When I make EGGPLANT PARMESAN this is one of the rare times when I don’t actually measure anything – I just kind of eyeball everything.  I gave you measurements here just to use as a guideline.

SHORTCUT MARINARA SAUCE

  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried Italian Seasoning
  • 1 T dried minced onions
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup red wine

Throw everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then turn down flame and simmer while you get the rest of the meal prepared.

NOTE:  When I use canned tomatoes, I buy the whole tomatoes and dice them myself (either by hand or in the food processor).  That way I can slice off the tough stem end, AND cut away any flaws.  I often find black spots in even the expensive brands of canned tomatoes. Call me paranoid, but you know when you buy the cans that are already diced, the company didn’t inspect the tomatoes nearly as carefully.

EGGPLANT PARMESAN

  • 1 eggplant
  • ¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup Romano cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 ½ cups marinara sauce (any kind you like – I use the recipe above)
  • 8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese

Beat the egg in a bowl, then pour it onto a plate.  On a different, dinner sized plate combine the bread crumbs and Romano cheese.  Now slice up the eggplant into ½” circles.  You don’t want to cut up the eggplant too early – they start to brown.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Don’t skimp on the oil – you don’t want the eggplant to stick.

As the oil is heating dip both sides of each eggplant slice into the egg, then the bread crumbs – really scrunching it around so there are no bare spots.  Once the oil is hot, cook the slices until both sides are browned and crusty.  Lay them on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a little marinara sauce – just so the eggplant doesn’t stick to the dish.  Lay down the eggplant slices.  Spoon marinara sauce on each slice, then top with mozzarella.  Use as much or little marinara and mozzarella as you like.

Cover the casserole dish and bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.