Eggplant Parmesan

Don and I both enjoy eggplant, especially if its Eggplant Parmesan.  I started making this years ago and it was an immediate hit with the family.  It's a great casserole to make ahead and bake just before eating.  It's a good potluck dish as well.  People see the cheese and tomato sauce and automatically their mind tells them they'll like this dish.  Even if they've never eaten eggplant before, most people enjoy this dish. 

Eggplant Parmesan is a delicious casserole which makes a great side dish to meatballs, spaghetti, macaroni or any pasta dish.  It's also good with potatoes, veggie patties and salad.   It can even step in as the main dish in a meal, mmmmm....Eggplant, garlic bread and salad.  Anyhoo, if you like pizza, you'll probably like Eggplant Parmesan. 

Eggplant Parmesan is a dish that is really a process rather than a recipe.  It's hard to measure what a large, medium or small eggplant will yield in slices but I'll try and give you as accurate measurements as I can.  Don't be put-off with the length of the recipe. It's because I'm trying to explain what I do.  Actually, it's a very simple recipe--fry, layer and bake. 

Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant or 2 smaller medium eggplant
1 cup flour
2 cups dry breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs (I like saltine cracker crumbs)
Salt and pepper to season crumbs and flour
1 egg
½ cup milk

Oil for frying

2-3 cups tomato sauce (your favourite canned or homemade)
1½ cups grated Mozzarella cheese
¼-½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Wash and slice eggplant in approximately ½-inch slices. No need to peel.  I had 12 slices from the eggplant I used.

Lay eggplant on a tray or plate and sprinkle both sides lightly with salt.  Leave the eggplant slices for 15 minutes to draw out excess moisture and bitterness.  If your eggplant is very fresh you may omit this step as fresh eggplant should not be bitter.  After 15 minutes, blot off the accumulated moisture with paper towelling.  

Place the flour in a shallow bowl or container.  Season with about ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper each.  Mix well.  

Place the bread or cracker crumbs in another shallow bowl and season the same as the flour.  If you are using salted crackers, omit the salt.

Beat the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. You may have to double this amount if you run out of the egg mixture.

Bread the eggplant slices one at a time as follows:
1.  Dip slice on both sides in egg mixture.
2.  Dredge slice on both sides in flour.
3.  Dip slice back into the egg mixture, covering both sides.
4.  Dredge slice in crumbs to cover both sides.

As each slice is breaded place it on a tray or piece of parchment paper.

When all slices are breaded, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Lay as many slices into the hot oil, without crowding, and fry on each side 3 or 4 minutes until each side is golden brown and eggplant has softened.

Continue frying until all slices are cooked.  You may have to add more oil as the eggplant is like a sponge, but go easy on the oil because you can use up to half a cup (or more) just frying the eggplant and you don't want to do that!  Place the fried eggplant on paper towels to soak off some of the oil.

Alternately, you may bake the eggplant slices at 375 degrees on a well oiled cookie sheet.  Bake them about 20-25 minutes, turning each slice half way through the baking.

When the eggplant is all fried or baked, assemble the casserole.  

You will probably need an 8x11-inch  or a 10-inch round baking dish.  Judge the dish size by the amount of slices you have.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Lightly grease the baking dish. Place about ⅓ of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Lay half the eggplant slices on top of the sauce.  Place a second ⅓ of the sauce on top of the slices.  Sprinkle with half the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Place the remaining eggplant slices on the cheese, spread the remaining sauce over the slices and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.   Bake 30-40 minutes or until bubbling and the cheese begins to blister and start to form a crust.  

When assembling use as much sauce and cheese as you wish.  I like less sauce but a good amount of cheese.  

Makes 4-6 servings.

Salting the eggplant slices will release any bitter juice that may be lurking inside the flesh.  Dry well with paper towels before frying.  New fresh eggplant won't be bitter but we're talking imported eggplant here in Newfoundland.  I'm assuming they aren't fresh by the time I buy them.

You can see the breading station in the upper left corner--egg, flour, egg, crumbs.  The eggplant doesn't take too long to fry to a lovely golden brown.  Make sure you drain the fried slices on absorbent paper.
First layer with slices, sauce and cheeses.  Second layer, same as the first.  Then it's ready for the oven. may place the finished dish in the refrigerator and bake later or next day.

The baked Eggplant Parmesan.  See, it does look something like pizza.  So good.

A delicious casserole of Eggplant.


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