Talk about a labor of love.  This is it.  In order to make eggplant parmesan you need to “weep” the eggplant juices, rinse and dry the slices, bread them, fry them, assemble them in a dish, and bake them.   This is not a weeknight dinner!  But, Jake loves eggplant parm, so I made it for his birthday weekend.  As you can probably tell from the last several posts, I was chained to the stove for 48 hours straight.  But he is a good husband and helped out along the way.

       

Here is the recipe (adapted from Food Network Kitchens):

2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices
Kosher salt, as needed for the weeping, plus 1 tablespoon
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
All-purpose flour for dredging
5 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or regular milk)
Olive oil, as needed
7 cups marinara sauce
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1 pound mozzarella, either shredded or thinly sliced

     

Arrange the eggplant slices on a couple of baking sheets and sprinkle generously all over with kosher salt. Set aside to let the bitter juices weep from the eggplant, about 1 hour.  I had never heard of letting the juices weep before making this recipe, but it sounds really traumatic, no?

Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink, and rinse well under cold running water. Transfer eggplant to a work surface and blot very dry with paper towels.  This takes a while because of the thick slices, but if you do thinner slices it will be a bit easier.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme, and season with pepper.

Place the flour in a medium lipped plate or bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, then dip it in the egg mixture, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

In a large straight-sided skillet, pour the oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium heat until it registers 400 degrees on a deep frying or candy thermometer. The oil should be heated to 400 degrees so that the breaded eggplant, when added, will drop the temperature of the oil to the proper frying temperature of 375 degrees.

Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown. You want to do maybe two slices at a time so that it doesn’t make the temperature drop too much.  Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush a 15 x 10- x 2-inch-baking dish (or something close to that) with the olive oil. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/3 of the marinara sauce and arrange half of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with another 1/3 of the sauce. Scatter half of the Parmesan and half of the mozzarella over the sauced eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

At this point I usually say something along the lines of “that’s it!” but it just doesn’t seem fitting for this recipe.  The eggplant parmesan did end up tasting great though, so it is worth the effort… once a year.

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