I was wondering aimlessly in the market recently. I desperately needed to stock up on just about everything. Our refrigerator and cabinets were near bare and for some reason I had no idea what I was going to get.
I was looking at the eggplants and I felt they were calling my name. Then it hit me why, my great aunt Fran always make me eggplant when I go back to New Jersey for a visit and might I say that her eggplant is the best I have ever had. It was also her 80th birthday this past week. I just had to get one and make Eggplant Parmesan in her honor. I know I make mine a bit different than she, but I know she would love my version.
I rushed home and started right in on making my eggplant. Trying to stay organized, because organization while making something like this is key. As I was simmering the marinara sauce, boiling water for pasta, eggplant was breaded & baking in the oven, and I was tossing a salad when Brian came in the door from work. He walked into the kitchen asking what was cooking. When I asked him what he thought it was he said, “It smells like Aunt Fran’s house!” Of all the things Brian could have said to me, I find that is the biggest compliment he ever gave me! Happy Belated Birthday Aunt Fran!
Eggplant Parmesan (Serves 4)
1 eggplant (about 2 lbs.); washed, trimmed, and cut into ¼ - ½ inch slices
2 cups of breadcrumbs
1 tsp of dried oregano
½ tsp of dried thyme
¼ tsp of crushed red pepper
black pepper to taste (freshly ground)
Provolone cheese sliced (figure about 1 piece of cheese to slice of eggplant)
1 batch of Marinara Sauce Recipe
First, sprinkle both sides of your eggplant slices with some kosher salt and place them in a colander suspended in a bowl. By doing this, the salt will draw out the excess moisture in your eggplant and also will remove some of the bitterness that is sometimes associated with eggplants. The moister from the eggplant should drain into the bowl beneath. You can leave this on your counter for about 30 minutes, or you can place it all in your refrigerator for a couple of hours. Either way is fine, whatever works with your schedule is best.
Next, remove the eggplant form your colander and pat dry with a paper towel. In a bowl whisk your eggs with about ¼ cup of water and set aside. In another bowl mix together well your breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, some black pepper, and kosher salt to taste. Have about two to three sheet pans ready with a generous sprinkle of olive oil. Also; you can start your marinara sauce at this time.
Then, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Working with one slice of eggplant at a time; place a slice into your egg mixture coating it well. Lift your eggplant slice out of the egg mix letting the excess egg drip off and place it into your breadcrumb mixture. Pat it into the bread crumbs well, being sure to coat each side of the eggplant. Remove the eggplant slice from the breadcrumbs and place it one your oiled sheet pan/ Spacing them evenly apart from one another. When all your eggplant slices are breaded and on your prepped sheet pans drizzle them liberally with more olive oil.
Keeping an eye on your eggplant until you see the overall coloring starting to brown and sizzle. You are looking for your edges to be a deep golden; when you are at that point you can remove your eggplant from the oven and place pieces of provolone over them. I usually break up my provolone into ¼ so that you can make the cheese fit onto your eggplant slices without hanging over them. Place the cheese covered eggplant back into the oven until it have melted, bubbled, and browned and remove from the oven.
Finally, to plate and serve your eggplant; be sure to have a large rimed platter ready. In the base of your platter, ladle in your marinara sauce so that it coats the bottom of you platter. Layer your eggplant over it evenly. Over the top of your eggplant pour a bit more of your marinara sauce and it is ready to serve. I usually cook some pasta to toss with the remainder marinara sauce to serve alongside the eggplant with a tossed green salad too.