Cooking on Mother’s Day is always a special event. I wanted to make sure I made things that Michelle really wanted to have for dinner and that would be good for the guests that we were having for the day. After some back and forth we decided on a few different things to make, but it was mostly going to have an Italian theme to it. I made a few things, so for the first day of the recipes I am going to post the recipe I used for Eggplant Parmesan that I got from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. Actually, a lot of recipes that I used for the Mother’s Day meal came from this cookbook. This one, I think, was my favorite of the day.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
2 pounds eggplant, sliced into one fourth-inch-thick rounds
Kosher salt and pepper
8 slices white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
For the tomato sauce, heat the oil and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden but not browned, about three minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens and the flavors meld, about 10 to 12 minutes. Take the sauce off the heat, season with salt to taste and cover to keep warm.
For the eggplant, line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels and set it aside. Toss the eggplant and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt together in a bowl, then transfer it to a colander. Let it sit until the eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons of liquid, about 30 to 45 minutes. Wipe the excess salt from the eggplant, then arrange it on a prepared baking sheet. Cover the eggplant with another triple layer of paper towels and firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.
While the eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat the oven to 425°. Pulse the bread in a food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 15 pulses. You should have about 4 cups of breadcrumbs when you are done. Transfer the crumbs to a pie plate or shallow dish and stir in the Parmesan cheese and a half teaspoon of pepper; set aside.
Combine the flour and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a large zipper-lock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs in a second pie plate or shallow ditch. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in the bag with the flour, sealed the bad, and shake to coat the eggplant. Remove the eggplant slices, shaking off any excess flour, then dip in the eggs, letting any excess egg run off. Then coat the eggplant evenly with the bread-from mixture. Set the breaded slices on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining eggplant.
Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to each sheet, tilting the sheet to coat it evenly with the oil. Place half of the breaded eggplant on each baking sheet and a single layer; bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping the eggplant slices with a wide spatula after 20 minutes. (Do not turn off the oven.)
To assemble the dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of the eggplant slices, overlapping slices to make sure everything fits. Distribute 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant, then sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Layer in the remaining eggplant, then.with 1 cup of sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and the cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, and scattered the basil over the top, and serve, passing the remaining tomato sauce separately.
I had never made eggplant Parmesan before, and the few times that I have had it be eggplant to me comes out to be quite soggy and full of oil. I think a lot of this is because most people just simply fry the eggplant before they put it in the oven. This technique seems to work better to me as salting the eggplant first helps draw out a lot of the moisture out of it, and then the baking process helps to keep it crisp. I actually used Panko breadcrumbs instead of making the breadcrumbs in the food processor as suggested and I think it actually came out better. Only putting a little bit of sauce on the eggplant cook in the dish also seem to help keep it nice and crisp as well. I used the same technique with the chicken Parmesan that we also made for dinner and that seemed to work really well too; you’ll see that recipe posted tomorrow. Everyone seemed to love the eggplant and it disappeared quite quickly, so fast in fact that I never even got a picture of it to take to post on here, so for that I apologize. But I will certainly make this dish again as the recipe proved to be popular even with those who are not big fans of eggplant.
That’s it for today. Time to get back to work. Tomorrow I will post the recipe for the chicken Parmesan that I need it. It is slightly different than the recipe I have posted here in the past and that everyone seemed to really like the way that came out as well so I think you’ll enjoy it. Check back tomorrow and see if you like it. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!