Eggplant Parmesan

I am SO excited to be sharing this recipe! Not just because it is one of my favorites (so much so that I had it at our wedding), but also because posting this means I can finally stop getting requests from my family!! Before you go on, I’ll have to warn you that it is a bit wordy. I imagined all of the last minute text/call/email questions they would come up with, and in hopes of preventing those created an overly detailed recipe. There are a couple tricks/side notes I want to point out first. The number one thing is soaking the eggplant in salt water. This helps the eggplant absorb moisture before the cooking process- which prevents it from sopping up extra grease while frying and becoming soggy and oily. The second is the Parmesan cheese. I am pretty quirky about this one. Powdered Parmesan has much different cooking, texture, and fat properties (read: processed) than finely shredded Parmesan. For that reason, I usually incorporate both options in different quantities through out my recipes. However, if you only have one that will be fine too! Last is the frying oil. Although olive oil has health benefits and can add great flavor- it is a TERRIBLE frying liquid. It has a low smoke point- which means it will burn faster, cause your food to burn faster, and also smell weird. So for frying, it is best to stick with canola or vegetable oil. If you are health conscious, or just prefer the taste of olive oil better, that is completely fine. Just make sure to turn down the heat, and plan on frying for a longer period of time at a lower temperature. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 20 Minutes    Cook Time: 1 Hour     Yield: 4 servings, 8 eggplant Parmesans (2 per person)

Ingredients

1 Large Eggplant, peeled, cut into ½ inch thick round slices. (About 16 slices)

1 Large Tomato, sliced, about ¼ inch thick (About 16 slices)

½ Sweet Yellow Onion, thinly sliced, cut in small 1 inch long pieces.

1 bundle Basil (enough for 16 pieces)

8 oz Fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced (about 16 pieces)

1 cup Powdered Parmesan (Kraft, etc.)

3/4 cup Finely Grated Fresh Parmesan

1 -24 oz jar Marinara Sauce (your choice! Avoid any meat flavored)

1 ¼ cup Italian Breadcrumbs

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

3 Eggs

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1-2 cups Vegetable or Canola Oil for Frying

Directions

  1. Soak the peeled, cut eggplant slices in salt water. Put the eggplant in a bowl, add 1 tbsp salt and completely cover with water. THE EGGPLANTS WILL FLOAT. Cover with another bowl, and weight it (I usually use an onion or tomato since it’s on the counter), this will keep the eggplants submerged. Let sit for about 30-40 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Drain eggplant from salt water. In a colander, rinse with water to ensure you have removed the excess salt from the eggplants. Pat eggplants dry with a paper towel. This is important! When frying- water is bad! Especially when it makes the oil jump up and hit you in the face.
  4. Create a 3-step dredging station. (I like to use pie pans for surface area since I’m impatient and can fit more slices in a step that way, but large bowls work great too!) Station 1: combine 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and ½ tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt). Station 2: Whisk together 3 eggs. Station 3: Combine 1 1/4 cup Italian Breadcrumbs (store bought, I like Contadina, but really any will do) with 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup finely shredded, finely chopped fresh Parmesan cheese. (Even though the finely shredded cheese is usually pretty small, chop it up even more. The smaller it is, the better it will stick/blend with the breading)
  5. Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, IMPORTANT shake off/pat off any excess flour. (A thin flour coating is what prevents breading from later falling off in the frying oil). Then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a wire baking rack.
  6. In a large straight-sided skillet, pour the oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Bring the oil up to temp before adding the eggplants. Attempting to fry them too early will make them soggy. You can either use a thermometer, and once it reads 400 F it is ready. Or, if you are familiar with cooking, toss in a couple bread crumbs and see if they sizzle.
  7. Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet or rack. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  8. KEEPING THE OIL CLEAN: It is important to not burn the eggplants, this will cause your oil to have a burnt taste. Also, if excess breadcrumbs begin to blacken, or the second or so round of batches burn quicker- clean out the pan and change the oil. In general, I can get 2 rounds of frying in, then I add about 2 tbsp more oil to dilute it, bring it back up to temp, then finish the remaining batches. (All is relative to the size of the pan you use).
  9. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/3 of the marinara sauce (to prevent sticking) and arrange 1 layer of eggplant over the sauce. Spoon marinara on each eggplant slice. Layer with sliced tomato, mozzarella, 2-3 sliced onion pieces, 1 basil leaf and sprinkle with powdered and shredded Parmesan. Top with another eggplant slice, and repeat all steps with sauce, tomato, mozzarella, onion, basil and Parmesan. Cover the top of the eggplant stacks with an additional generous spoonful of marinara (you shouldn’t be able to see the basil underneath). Top with even more powered and shredded Parmesan. The more, the better in our house.  Bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Note- once cooked it will look nothing like the lovely picture above. So don’t worry! It should be melted and blended together into a cheesy, saucy tower!

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