Tell me friends, is there anything better than melted cheese? You know, the kind that stretches off whatever food it’s lovingly attached to and sticks to your fork, face and plate? That cheese for me is mozzarella, the glory of Italian cheese. Add a little marinara and then you’ve struck gold.
Okay, big build up I realize. The thing I love about this one is it's a recipe for a fairly simple meal that transports just as well for lunch the follow day (or 2). There are a couple of labor intensive pieces but honestly, you’ll be happy with the effort as soon as it’s out of the oven and on your plate. Promise.
I mean hey, I didn't start this until 10pm so you’re bound to be a smarter person, start earlier and maybe have even better results! (Yep, I'm that person yawning over the oven at midnight because she HAD to have fresh cookies). I'd love to hear how it turns out for you, or your customizations.
Adapted from Alexandra Stafford’s recipe on Food52
2 globe eggplants, sliced fairly uniformly into ½ inch thick rounds
Salt & Pepper
1.5 cups flour (purists would probably say white, but ww worked fine for me)
4 large eggs
3.5 – 4 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2 cups Parmesan cheese (fresh grated is best)
4 Tbs olive oil
1 large jar of your favorite (or homemade) tomato sauce
8 oz mozzarella (comes in a log with sliced rounds, grated is fine too)
Fresh basil (a must!)
|Your zucchini breading station|
Grab a bowl and toss the eggplants around with a pinch of salt. Place a colander in the sink and let them sit there and drain for a while, around 30 minutes. (I was tempted in my hunger to skip this step. Don’t. It’s completely worth having crispy eggplant and less extra liquid as you dish it up later).
Heat oven to 425 and stick 2 baking sheets in to preheat. Lay out your station for eggplant breading, beginning with a bowl for the flour and a shake of pepper, a second, smaller bowl for the beaten eggs and a third with the combined breadcrumbs, 1.5 cups of the cheese and a shake of S&P.
Lay out a few metal cooling racks. Spread the eggplant out on dishcloths and pat your first round to prep them for their 3 part dressing before the oven. Tap them around in the flour, dip in the eggs then roll in the cheese/Panko mixture, press it over the whole surface to make sure everything sticks. Place your eggplant rounds on the cooling racks for temporary storage. Your fingers will get completely cheesed and sticky after a while, and your kitchen counter will look like the Pillsbury dough boy tried his hand at baking.
Once all the eggplant’s ready, remove your pans from the oven and pour 2 Tbs of oil over each to coat. Arrange the eggplant over the pans in a single layer. Stick in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked to your liking, then flip and cook for another 5-10 until you can see the cheese turning a little golden but without anything browning too much.
Leave your oven on. Grab a 9x13 baking dish and pour a generous coating of tomato sauce over the bottom, about 1/3 of the jar. Spread half of the eggplant over the bottom, with however an artsy formation you’re feeling. I liked the “shingling” suggested for this recipe even though that required far more eggplant than I ended up with. Pour over another third of the sauce, then sprinkle/place half of your mozzarella on top. Continue with the rest of your eggplant and sauce. Then add the rest of the cheese.
Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and the sauce looks pretty thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle basil and extra Parmesan over the top and serve with some toasted French bread and a big glass of Merlot!
- Herby: dried or fresh – a few shakes would shine well, either in the sauce or sprinkled in top. Say oregano, thyme or Herbs de Provence
- Spicy: You could add a shake of cayenne or some roasted red peppers into the sauce
- Meaty: If you prefer protein in your main course, ground turkey could be browned off and added to the layering process or flaked rotisserie chicken could give it a Chicken Cacciatore feel
How fitting that Food and Wine featured their "old school eggplant parm" for #meatlessmonday last week. Honored to be on the same wavelength...as I drool over their Instagram lately.
Hope it's a good week for everyone!
Hope it's a good week for everyone!