I do some of my best menu planning on the train ride home from the office everyday. My mind is whirling a million miles a minute, tossing around ingredients, what is available, what is at home; even what the weather is like plays into the final decision. The other night it was a cold and rainy night, perfect for something hot, bubbly and cheesy. I was feeling ambitious, when I came home at 5pm and decided to tackle making Eggplant Parmesan Casserole. Whew! Could I do it? Dinner on the table by 730pm, the same night?
I have not made this classic Italian and vegetarian dish in quit some time, as the words rolled off my lips, I knew a certain someone would be more then happy as he loves this dish. Lucky for me and for you, this recipe is pretty simple and you can have it on the table, within a couple hours, with a little planning beforehand. Timing is everything with this recipe. If you follow the order I have written, it will be a snap and the steps just kind of flow. And, yes, I did have dinner on the table by 730pm, the same night; and, it was wonderful!
Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan
1 recipe of basic tomato sauce
1 medium eggplant, cut into circles, about 1/8″ – 1/4″
2 1/4 cups whole wheat panko
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 cups flour
handful parsley, minced
5 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
fresh mozzarella, I used a container of the small cheese balls, then cut each into quarters.
Heat oven to 425. Cut the eggplant and put into a colander, in the sink. Sprinkle, heavy handed, with kosher salt. Toss to mix it up. Let sit, for 30 minutes; this is enough time to get the tomato sauce going and to mix up the breading stages. In a shallow bowl mix the panko, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl beat the eggs with the milk or heavy cream, until mixed. In another shallow bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper. Set all three bowls aside. When 30 minutes it up, take a paper towel and gently wipe the salt off of the eggplant. DO NOT RINSE – eggplant are like a sponge and will become water logged. Heat about a 1/2″ of olive oil in a frying pan, over low medium heat, about a 4 on my stove. Do not burn the oil. Coat a slice of eggplant with the flour, shake off excess; dip in the egg mixture, evenly on both sides; coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Gently add to the heated olive oil. I do not add more then 4 slices at a time into the frying pan. I keep the heat at about 4, which is a very low medium heat. Cook until the slices are golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes per side. Remove the eggplant and place on paper towels, to remove excess oil. Repeat the process until all of the eggplant is used.
In a medium sized baking dish, put a thin layer of sauce, then a layer of eggplant, somewhat snug. Then tuck a basil leave between each eggplant slice, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella, drizzle some of the sauce over the top; repeat this process until you have used all of the eggplant.
Your last layer, should be sauce; then sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until bubbling. Each oven varies, be sure to check after 30 minutes. You do not want the cheese to become to dark, just golden. Serve. Eat.