My family had this tradition that on your birthday you could choose not only the cake you wanted, but the dinner that would be served as well. Without fail my request was always eggplant parmesan. Over the years I’ve discovered a lot of people who didn’t like eggplant; one of those people is the husband. Naturally I set about to convert him. The problem with eggplant is it is often cooked improperly. When overcooked it is mushy and flavorless and when undercooked it is bitter and chewy, but treat the eggplant right and it will reward you with a sweet creaminess that’s out of this world and beyond gorgeous. Even better, there are hundreds of varieties of eggplant each with their own taste and texture.  Eggplants are also full of antioxidants (as are their nightshade brethren tomatoes and peppers) so they are really good for you! If I still haven’t convinced you to try them maybe this recipe will, even my eggplant hating husband ate it and asked for seconds.
The best thing about this recipe is that it makes it easy to cook the eggplant right. The heat is high enough and the time is short enough that overcooking is unlikely. Also remember for eggplant to be considered cooked a knife should be able to sink into it effortlessly which will happen just about the same time your crumbs turn brown.

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:
For the eggplant:
1 lb. globe eggplant, cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick rounds
1½ tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. high-quality white bread, torn into chunks
1½ oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about ¾ cup
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. pepper, divided
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the tomato sauce:
1½ (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper

4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
½ oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup)
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Directions:
To prepare the eggplant, toss the eggplant slices with the kosher salt in a large bowl until combined.  Transfer the salted eggplant to a colander and set the colander over the now empty bowl.  Let stand until the eggplant releases at least 1 tablespoon liquid, 30-45 minutes.  Spread the eggplant slices on a triple thickness of paper towels (or layers of clean kitchen towels); cover with another triple thickness of paper towels.  Press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.  Wipe off any excess salt.

While the eggplant is draining, place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425˚ F.  Pulse the bread in a food processor to fine crumbs (about 15 1-second pulses).  You should have about 3 cups.  Transfer the crumbs to a pie plate and mix in the cheese, salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.  Wipe out the bowl of the food processor.

Combine the flour and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a large zipper lock plastic bag; shake to combine.  Beat the eggs in a second pie plate.  Place about half of the eggplant slices in the bag with the flour; seal and shake to coat.  Remove the slices, shaking off the excess flour.  Dip in the eggs, letting the excess run off.  Coat evenly with the bread crumb mixture.  Set the breaded slices on a wire rack.  Repeat with the remaining eggplant until all the slices are breaded.

Remove the preheated baking sheet from the oven.  Add the vegetable oil to the sheet and tilt to coat evenly.  Place the breaded eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes and flipping the slices after 20 minutes.  Do not turn off the oven after the slices are baked.

While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce.  Process about half of the diced tomatoes in the food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds.  Heat the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the processed tomatoes and the remaining diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened at reduced, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the dish, spread ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish.  Layer in half of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit.  Spread with another ½ cup of the sauce.  Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.  Layer in the remaining eggplant and dot with the remaining sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining mozzarella.  Bake until bubbling and the cheese is browned, 13-15 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes, scatter the basil over the top, and serve.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats who adapted it from The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Advertisements