Monday, August 23, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I have a problem. I love eggplant, but struggle to prepare it in a tasty manner. If I saute it in oil, it gets too mushy. And, unless it's baba ghanoush, it's probably pretty bland. I've read the same laments on Smitten Kitchen and now Bitten Word.

The Bitten Word boys reviewed this recipe from Cook's Country and they like the recipe specifically because the dish doesn't turn out "gooey." They had my attention.

I love the pan-fried-then-baked eggplant planks. The eggplant almost melts inside the breading - like a mozzarella stick. Pair that crispy plank with the tender eggplant/tomato ragout, and you have a fantastic, restaurant quality Eggplant Parm!

I was certainly surprised! I thought it would be a good, decent recipe to throw in the rotation. But, I would serve this dish for a fancy dinner party. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate a crowd. You just have to dredge a few extra planks. I spiced up the ragout with a generous helping of pepper flakes.

In true Bonnie-fashion, I tried to do as much prep the night before as I could. I mixed up the breading, prepped the eggplant, chopped the garlic and gathered all the pans and dishes I would need. The next time I would like to try making the planks ahead of time and heat them in the oven when ready to serve them.

from Bitten Word

Serves 4 (the recipe said serves 2, but it was way more than we could ever eat)

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded provolone cheese

1. BREAD EGGPLANT. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of eggplant, halve each plank crosswise, and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice. Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes (or refrigerate up to 1 hour).

2. COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook -eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ -teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.

4. ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Serve.

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