Comfort Food Classic: Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite dishes. But until this weekend, I never made a legitimate eggplant parmesan. The dish isn’t difficult to make but I have always been daunted by the mess and many steps involved in the recipe.

Given the 2.5 hours needed to make the dish, I deemed this a “Weekend Gourmet” dish and decided to make it on Sunday.

As predicted the recipe was easy to make but it did require me to dirty several pots and dishes. The only change to the recipe is that I used 3-28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes instead of fresh plum tomatoes since they didn’t look very good at the market. Make sure to buy fresh mozzarella — makes big difference in the taste.

I thought the sauce was very tasty and I was impressed that the eggplant didn’t get soggy while baking. It retained a nice crispness. Overall this was a delicious eggplant parmesan. I think I will be making it again.


Eggplant Parmesan

• 2 1/2 lb medium eggplants (about 3), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
• 3 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 5 lb plum tomatoes
• 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
• 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs
• 3 1/2 cups panko * (Japanese bread crumbs)
• 2 ozfinely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2/3 cup)
• 1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly sliced

Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander set over a bowl, then let drain 30 minutes.

While eggplant drains, cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch tomatoes together in a 5-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, then coarsely purée in batches in a blender. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together flour, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir together panko and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in panko until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to sheets of wax paper, arranging slices in 1 layer.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 cups oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant 4 slices at a time, turning over once, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a rectangular 3 1/2-quart (13- by 11- by 2-inch) baking dish. Arrange about one third of eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary. Cover eggplant with about one third of remaining sauce (about 11/4 cups) and one third of mozzarella. Continue layering with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

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