This recipe is based on years of experimentation and work by Kevin’s mother Maren, it far exceeds any pallid imitations or pretenders you might have encountered previously. I always double this recipe, but I’m giving you the smaller amount instructions here. If you double this recipe you will end up with the two large pans and one smaller one that you see at the end of this post. I don’t think it’s worth doing this recipe for a small amount. You can always invite the neighbors over. Also, this dish gets better as it sits, so left-overs are Divine.
- Four regular eggplants, not the Japanese ones (picked according to Nicole’s instructions; click on this link to my Iranian Eggplant post to see the correct way to pick eggplants)
- Good Salt for eggplants (Kosher probably best, but Himalayan Pink okay as well, see Let’s Talk Salt)
- Egg/Flour mixture: 2 large eggs or 3 small ones, 2–3 tablespoons of flour, ¼ cup of water, a dash of garlic salt or powder, fresh or parsley chopped very fine or dried parsley and some white pepper also
- Cheese: 2–3 blocks of part–skim, low fat or whole, never fat–free mozzarella, ½ cup or more of grated Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil: Option A: about a pint of good olive oil; Option B: use two good nonstick pans, you will then use less than a pint of good olive oil. I sometimes mix a little sunflower oil or canola oil in this, but the olive oil really makes it taste better.
A pot of warm tomato sauce (see Sapta Rachel’s Best Tomato Sauce prepared a day or two ahead or add another several hours of prep time, prior to beginning to make this dish). If you are doing my sauce, do not put fresh basil in it, use a little dried oregano, this dish doesn’t do well with fresh basil in the sauce. If you have to use prepared tomato sauce, the final outcome will reflect your choice. Maren recommends Prego, and only Prego, if you don’t have me handy or if you didn’t take the time to make my sauce, shame on you! I prefer organic sauces so I use Muir Glen or a locally made one from the Italian deli in our neighborhood. The fresher the better.
One container of Contadina or Progresso Italian Flavored Bread Crumbs (don’t try other fancy, organic ones unless you are sure they have the same weight and consistency as these). We have tried the other kinds and been upset by the results. Since this recipe is a three to five hour effort depending on if you have helpers, it is not worth making a mistake. Follow our instructions and you will be pleased, stray from this path and feel the ache in your back and the frustration of a lot of time spent to yield something that isn’t that great.
Optional: Sauté up some mushrooms in butter, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to use in one of the layers, or to serve on the side.
What you will need that isn’t a specific food item:
- Two large Baking Sheets
- Two large non–stick frying pans or two well–seasoned cast iron frying pans or one of each
- Two large casserole dishes
- Lots of clean counter space (see the Ten Commandments of Nicole’s Kitchen)
- An apron
- A sous–chef and a clean–up crew (these last two are highly recommended, if you can’t do this dish with a helper, make sure you have some good red wine handy to fortify yourself with ½ way through)
Peel eggplants, slice into ¼ inch round slices. Place a layer of paper towels on your baking sheet. Put a layer of the sliced eggplant down, sprinkle very lightly with salt. Put another layer of paper towels on top of these and repeat this whole process until you have used all your eggplant slices. Make sure you put a final paper towel on the top, then put the other baking sheet on top of all of this, weigh it down with your large cast pan or several heavy cans of food. The object here is to help drain the eggplants of extra water, the lightly salted layers release their water out into the paper towels and the weighting down further encourages this process. This must sit for at least ½ hour, during which time you will prepare the following:
Egg/Flour mixture: in a small covered jar, shake the ¼ cup of water and flour together so they are well combined. Beat eggs in a shallow dish or bowl. Add the flour water and mix, add white pepper, and garlic and parsley. In another shallow dish pour a small amount of breadcrumbs, if you pour a lot in, they goop up and get clumpy, which is not what you want. You want a light layer of bread crumbs.
Turn your oven onto 350° at this point.
After the ½ hour has passed, remove the top weights from over your eggplant layers and pat the top layer with paper towel.
You will need a couple of plates or platter to put the breaded eggplant on. We recommend arranging your counter space in a kind of assembly line. Eggplants, then egg mix, then bread crumbs, then plates.
Dip each eggplant slice in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs so that it coats on both sides, place on your dish. Continue on ad–infinitum, until all the eggplant slices have been dipped and coated.
Now, over to the stove we go. Have your baking sheets clean and on hand to receive the fried eggplant. Take a deep breath or two. Pour olive oil into your pans, less for non–stick, more for other kinds, you need to cover the bottom of your pan and then have some extra, if you use a good amount, you won’t have to add oil in later to a smoking hot pan. Once the oil is hot, not smoking, it should be on a medium setting, fill each pan with the eggplant. Cook these a few minutes on each side, so that they brown a little.
You don’t want them to burn, PAY ATTENTION! Remove from stove and layer onto baking sheets. Once you have filled up a baking sheet, repeat frying procedure with remaining eggplant. This method allows you to use less oil, which makes a difference. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and put the baked eggplant rounds on fresh paper towels over cooking racks or grates, this step helps get rid of extra oil. You can layer paper towels and cooked eggplant onto a plate as well, if you don’t have cooking racks or grates.
Have grated or shredded cheese in a separate bowl and the Parmesan cheese also in a separate bag, bowl or container.
Now we are back to the assembly line process again. Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan in the following manner. Put a small amount of sauce on the bottom of your pan, just a little bit. Then you will put one layer of eggplant on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Now, take several spoons of the sauce and spread it lightly over the top of each eggplant slice, don’t pour a large amount. You want the end result to be moist, but not runny.
Sprinkle a generous amount of the grated mozzarella over this, then sprinkle a little bit of the Parmesan cheese over this, then repeat the whole procedure, don’t do more than two full layers per casserole, because you don’t want a gooey oven mess.
If you are into the mushrooms, you can insert the sautéed mushrooms after the first layer of eggplant, before the cheese. Your final layer, must always be the cheese. Use a little more Parmesan on the final layer. If you use too much this dish will be too salty and you’ll be sad.
Put them in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or more until the cheese is starting to get brownish. Remove from the oven. You are done! Except for the clean up which will take at least an hour or two. This dish is really only made for those your truly love, or those you are hoping to have love you for the rest of your life!