• Peter Sr.

Eggplant Parmesan

One of Dad's 'specialitees'!

By Cook's Illustrated


YIELD 6 - 8 servings

TIME About 2 hours


WARNING: Resist the temptation to eat all the eggplant before assembling the casserole in step 4. Believe me, it won't be easy!

Ingredients:

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

  • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (adjust to your taste)

  • 3 (14 1 /2-oz ) cans diced tomatoes,

  • 2 (14 1 /2-oz ) cans pureed

  • 1 (14 1 /2-oz ) can whole

Casserole

  • 2 (globe) eggplants (~1 pound each) cut crosswise into 1/2" thick slices

  • 1 T. kosher salt

  • 1 C. panko bread crumbs (more if necessary depending on the quantity of eggplant slices)

  • 1 C. vegetable oil (i.e., enough to make a layer 1/4-1/2" deep in the pan used to fry the eggplant)

  • 1 C. all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper

  • 3 large eggs, beaten

  • 1/2 lb. whole-milk mozzarella, shredded (adjust the amount as necessary to make enough between the layers of and on the top of the assembled casserole

  • 1 C. finely grated Parmesan cheese (use the best you can find. I usually use more than a cup)

  • torn fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preparation:

1. For the sauce: Combine olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium­ high heat. As the oil starts to sizzle, shake the pan so the garlic does not stick. When the garlic turns light, golden brown (2-3 mins), immediately add the pureed and diced tomatoes. When the sauce begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer {one of my favorite words) until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15mins. There should be about 4 cups. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. {I usually make more sauce than the recipe calls for. If I then have more than I need for this casserole, I save it for a future small bowl of pasta.)


2. For the casserole: While the sauce simmers, place the eggplant on a large baking pan covered with paper towels. Salt both sides of the eggplant and cover with towels.

Let stand for 30 mins. Lay the eggplant on fresh paper towels and set another layer of towels on top. Using the heel of your hand, press as much liquid out as possible.


3. Pour the vegetable oil into a 12" skillet and heat to 375 degrees. Place the flour and pepper in a small paper or plastic bag. Fill a pie plate with the eggs. Spread the panko out in another pie plate. Working with batches of eggplant that will just fill the skillet, flour each piece, dip it in the eggs, and coat it with panko. Make certain to remove excess coating in each step but be sure the egg completely covers the flour layer. Fry the slices, turning once, until golden brown. With tongs, remove the slices, allow excess oil to drain back into the pan and place on a baking sheet covered with towels. Repeat the process until all of the eggplant is fried.


4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Once all of the eggplant is fried, assemble the casserole in a 9X13-inch baking dish. In the bottom of the dish ladle 1 1 /2 cups of the sauce and spread evenly. Top this with a layer of eggplant, half the mozzarella and Parmesan, and 1 cup sauce. Then repeat with a second layer of eggplant and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese across the top. Bake until the top is well browned and bubbling, 13-15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 mins and serve garnished with torn basil leaves.