Sunday Supper: Eggplant Parmigiana
Let’s defrost some Sunday Sauce because today, we’re making eggplant armigiana. Eggplant Parm is another labor of love dish. It’s a number of steps, takes some time but is so, so good. This is another dish where Nonna would stand over the stove for hours making it for us; classic and timeless. I should also mention that eggplant parmigiana is one of my favorite things to eat. And, if you know me well, you know I make/eat a lot of different things. So, when I say I LOVE eggplant parmigiana, it means something.
I don’t remember when my affair with eggplant parm began but the love runs deep. I think it’s the way the eggplant is completely transformed. If you make it right, it becomes a creamy, mild center for the layers of sauce and cheese. In addition, because I truly adore eggplant parm, I am always trying to find ways to make it better. My mamma would always serve it over white rice. Most people eat it was pasta but eating it with rice just makes me feel like I’m back at Gina’s table so that’s how I do it.
As a recipe tester by trade, I am always picking up tips and tricks from the recipes I make. About five years ago, I was given the task of testing a baked eggplant parmigiana for Food52 . I was perplexed…BAKED? How could this be? I was certain the dish would be compromised by rubbery, flimsy eggplant. However, I was wrong (don’t tell my husband!) Although it wasn’t traditional, the dish was good and I didn’t miss the task of frying fifty pieces of eggplant. If I’m in a hurry, it’s my go-to recipe. However, what I did miss was the crispness of the eggplant you can only achieve in the pan. So I did find myself going back to my recipe as well.
Then, a few years ago, another recipe came my way. My brother in law Chris introduced me to Frankie Spuntino. No, not a person, a wonderful little place in Carroll Gardens, NY. A true, red sauce Brooklyn joint, the owners, turn out Italian American classic dishes, but done right. I bought up their cookbook and read it cover to cover. Yes, I read cookbooks like novels.
When Chris’ birthday rolled around, I decided to make his favorite dish from Frankie’s, the Eggplant Parmigiana. I was intrigued by the technique for this pretty famous Eggplant Parm recipe. They didn’t fry the eggplant once, they fry it twice. It’a a 'Nonna' trick, they say. And, they don’t use breadcrumbs! Instead, they use a simple egg batter. Its like Eggplant alla Francese! GENIUS! MIND BLOWN! I had to do this, and do this right. Chris eats there at least three times a week so I couldn’t mess this up.
Not surprisingly, the dish is phenomenal. I could eat the egg-dipped eggplant on its own for days. But of course, I had to make it my own. So, I altered the recipe. Two times fried is pretty time consuming for this mamma of three. So, instead of two times in the fryer, I used that technique I learned 5 years ago and baked the eggplant, dusted with flour, for the first go and then fry the second time with the egg batter.
My hybrid dish is a keeper and I think I can finally stop searching for the perfect Eggplant Parmigiana recipe. Give it a try and you will too.
Anna's Eggplant Parmigiana
1 ½ to 2 lbs small eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thin
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup flour
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon Milk
1/3 cup grated parmigiano cheese, for egg mixture
4 cups Sunday Sauce
½ cup grated parmigiano cheese, for layers
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
On a large baking sheet, lay out paper towel and place eggplant pieces on top. Sprinkle with salt. Lay another layer of paper towel on top and continue placing eggplant down with salt. Once all the eggplant is layed out, cover with another baking sheet and place something very heavy on top, like a cast iron skillet.
Allow eggplant to ‘sweat’ for an hour. Remove the eggplant from the paper towels, the towels should be very wet.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Drizzle olive oil on the baking sheet and lay the eggplant on top. Sprinkle flour on the each piece and massage into the top of the eggplant.
Bake eggplant for ten minutes, just until you can no longer see the flour and eggplant has softened. Do not allow the eggplant to brown.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat ½ cup of olive oil until very hot. Dip each eggplant slice in the egg/cheese mixture and place in the hot oil. Turn after 2 minutes, when eggplanthas begun to brown. Cook for another two minutes and transfer to a paper towel lined dish to drain.
In a 9x13 baking dish, lay ½ cup of sauce and spread thin. Lay the eggplant on top in a single layer. Drizzle another ½ cup of sauce on top and again, spread thin. Sprinkle some parmigiano cheese and continue with more eggplant until all your eggplant and sauce is gone.
Bake, covered with aluminum foil for 1 hour. Remove foil and sprinkle mozzarella on topand increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake another 10 minutes until the top is as my brother-in-law Chris would say, “Golden, Brown, Delicious!”