Eggplant parmesan is probably one of my favorite dishes to eat. It's definitely a top 20 contender. Savory, cheesy and all around delicious, it's perfect. What isn't so perfect is the work that goes into it. Unfortunately, this dish is a bit time-consuming. However, when done right, it will be worth every minute. Note: This recipe will make enough for 4-6 people.
1-2 medium-sized Italian eggplants Italian bread crumbs 2 large eggs, beaten 4 cups tomato sauce 3 cloves garlic, chopped 3 sprigs thyme Fresh mozzarella 1/2 tbsp red chili flakes Salt and pepper, to taste Olive oil
Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch wide discs. The secret to getting firm eggplant is to sprinkle salt on both sides of the slices and let them sit for 45 minutes to an hour on a cooling rack. Make sure to place a tray beneath the rack. The salt will pull the water from the eggplant which is key if you don't want all that water turning your eggplant into mush during cooking. You'd be shocked by how much water these things retain! Place a sauce pan (I prefer to use a cast iron pan) on high heat with 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/3 of chopped garlic and red chili flakes. Preheat oven to 375°. Work in batches — toss eggplant in breadcrumbs, cover with egg wash and then coat with a final layer of breadcrumbs. Place in pan and fry until golden.
Place finished eggplant on a paper towel to soak up some of that oil. Once you've fried your eggplant into submission, it's time to pull the dish together with tomato sauce and cheese. I absolutely love making homemade tomato sauce. I love the taste and the aroma. The problem, unless you stockpile homemade tomato sauce, is when is that ever convenient to make? *grabs my store bought pasta sauce* I do spice up the store bought sauce with fresh herbs and garlic, so try not to judge too hard. Layer sauce, eggplant and sliced mozzarella cheese in a cast iron pan. Repeat until you're all done. I sometimes add some grated parmesan on top for that extra nutty flavor.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Once the cheese is gooey and slightly brown (if it begins to brown too quickly just cover with foil), remove from the oven and let it cool. Most people enjoy this meal with pasta but I love eating it with slightly crunchy Italian bread and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce.