Eggplant is one of those vegetables that everyone is programmed to hate. It ranks right up there with mushrooms, peppers, onions and broccoli. It’s not until it’s been prepared in a delicious way that it totally surprises you.
I can only think of 1 other time that I cooked with eggplant. It was edible, but certainly not delicious. We received several small Japanese eggplants this past week and Justin requested eggplant parmesan. I did A LOT of research on this recipe before jumping in. I probably ready 10-15 different variations and techniques before deciding how I wanted to make my version. I combined a lot of different techniques and the outcome was incredibly good. Initially, I was going to bread them in panko like a lot of recipes suggest, but I forgot to grab some while at the grocery store. Instead, I went for a modified tempura breading.
These things were amazing. The center was creamy and soft. They were crispy and cheesy. I want more now….
Japanese eggplant is a lighter purple color. I honestly don’t know if there’s any other differences. I’m sure there’s slightly different flavors and textures from ‘normal’ eggplant though. If you can’t find the Japanese variety, just use whatever you can get your hands on. This recipe takes a little time. Probably close to an hour and a half start to finish, so keep this in mind.
4 small eggplants, 3 medium or 2 large
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup milk (I used almond, as usual)
Another cup of flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
High heat oil (such as grapeseed) for frying
Grated mozzarella and grated parmesan
Slice your eggplants in 1/2″ rounds (I did not peel them)
Place them in a colander in the sink and sprinkle generously with salt
Toss them around so the salt gets all over and let them rest for 45 minutes
— This helps draw out some bitterness and a lot of liquid, which will keep them from being soggy
After 45 minutes, arrange the eggplant slices on top of several layers of paper towels
Cover with more layers of paper towels and press firmly all over to help soak up all the moisture
In a gallon ziploc baggie, combine 1/2 cup of flour, 2 shakes of salt and several twists of a pepper grinder
Toss the eggplant slices in the bag, seal it shut and shake until it’s all coated
In a shallow dish, such as a pie pan, whisk the eggs and milk together
In another shallow dish, whisk together the flour and cornstarch
Shake the excess four of the eggplant, coat with the egg mixture, then coat with the flour/cornstarch mixture
Lay them all on a large cutting board
Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, plus a little extra
Once the oil begins to shimmer in the pan, sprinkle a little flour in
If the flour immediately starts sizzling and frying, you’re ready to go. If not, wait a little longer and try again
Once the oil is up to heat, add as many of your eggplant slices that will fit without overcrowding the pan
Cook until golden (3-4 minutes) then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes
Remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack or paper towel lined plate
Repeat until all of the eggplant is cooked
Once they’re done frying, they can be set aside until 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat. That makes them a great make ahead party appetizer or dinner side. Don’t refrigerate them or they’ll get soggy. And finish them within a couple hours.
When you’re ready to eat, preheat your oven to 375°F
Arrange the fried eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and sprinkle mozzarella all over
Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly — about 10 minutes
Kick the broiler on high and broil until the cheese starts turning golden. Keep a close eye on them, as this will happen fast.
Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle freshly grated parmesan all over
Serve hot with a marinara dipping sauce