What a lovely array of eggplants - check out those striated ones! I couldn't help but purchase a variety of varieties (haha) when I found these lovely creatures at the grocery store. Each and every one of them was absolutely Perfect! I splurged a little on this organic selection because they looked so good, but I normally just use the common variety purple eggplants. Choose ones that have smooth skin and haven't grown too large.
Dear Lord, Thank You for Eggplant!
This is my absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world to eat. As a child, I would request it each year for my birthday. It's a little time consuming (and very high in calories), so I don't make it very often... about once every 4-5 years. I was thrilled this year when my oldest son recently requested it for his birthday dinner! I made a Huge 11x14 pan of it and the 7 of us gobbled it up in no time flat. My youngest even asked to bring some to school for lunch the next day (what her friends must think!).
Anyway, this is exactly the way I watched my mother make is so many times... I hope you'll consider giving it a try - most people have never had it, but they always LOVE it... and your Italian friends will thank you for the trip down taste bud memory lane!
The most important thing, besides starting with beautiful eggplant, is PEELING them. Please don't skip this step. Nothing disappoints me in the eggplant world more than taking a bite of eggplant parmesan that still has the leathery skin on it - ick, uck, yuck!!!
Now we cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices, dunk in beaten egg, then give them a healthy coating of Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs (Progresso or 4C are great brands). Trust me on this one... use the seasoned bread crumbs - they make the dish! If you like, you can mix some grated parmesan or pecorino cheese in with the breadcrumbs - oh yeah! (I like to do 50/50 cheese/breadcrumbs)
Mmmm, I can almost taste it now!
Okay, last really important thing is to fry these babies up in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Don't pay attention to anything you've read about not using EVOO for frying. Just trust me.
Btw, I really love this 14.5 inch frying pan I purchased at Costco - all 7.5 quarts of it. It holds so much food. I can brown 3-4 lbs of ground beef at one time, it holds almost 2 lbs of cooked pasta, I can cook 6 chicken breasts with room to spare, etc. I noticed they were on clearance recently so I purchased 2 more... just to have as back ups. I might even get another. Seriously... I love this pan!
Okay, fry the eggplant in hot EVOO and don't even think about turning them over until they've reached this lovely brown color (brown equals flavor). Don't crowd your pan... just do batch after batch until they're all cooked. Drain on paper towels until you're ready for the next step.
The wait is killing me. I can't stand it.... soooooooo goood!!
Hurry, preheat your oven to 350F. Line the bottom of your baking dish with fried eggplant slices. They're kind of maliable so just squish them in there. This is a very large 11x14 pan - look how many it will hold!
(obviously you can make as much or as little as you like)
Add a thin layer of your favorite tomato sauce or use my homemade San Marzano Sauce.
Time for the cheese - layer on shredded mozzarella - Hello!!!!
Repeat with another layer of eggplant, sauce, and cheese. Cover with foil (non-stick works especially well and won't stick to the cheese). Place the foil covered dish on a large sheet pan to catch any drips that might try to escape. Bake for about an hour or until heated through and bubbly. I like to remove the foil and turn on the broiler for the last 3-4 minutes to brown the cheese. HEAVEN!!!!!!!
Seriously, make this and invite me over! Enjoy.