I’ve had a craving for tender, crisply fried eggplant recently and bought a medium sized one at the store last Friday on the way home from my hospital visit to have the sutures taken out.
The first step I took this morning was to make some enriched panko breadcrumbs: melting a dollop of unsalted butter in a skillet, pouring in a fresh packet of panko crumbs, stirring gently to distribute the butter; a couple of sprinkles of Lawry’s garlic salt from the gigantic container I bought at Sam’s Club, and dried parsley to provide some nice color. On low heat, I stirred the crumbs until they turned slightly golden and smelled fragrant from the garlic salt. Cooled and then transferred to a plastic container for future use.
In the afternoon, I washed and sliced up the eggplant into slightly thinner slices than usual so as to ensure tender crispiness and also to avoid having to fry thicker pieces longer and then have to drain the slices of fat. Sprinkled the raw eggplant with Maldon salt. Let sit for an hour or so on the kitchen table. Then wiped the salt and liquid clean, drying the eggplant slices. Then, the three-fold dredging steps, dipping each slice of eggplant in flour, beaten eggs, and prepared panko breadcrumbs. Oil simmered over medium-high heat in the skillet, a quick fry, turning the slices over when golden and then draining the fried slices on paper towels. I had to clean the pan halfway through to avoid burning the eggplant and started over with clean oil, not smoking. I set the slices aside to rest.
Then, I opened a can of San Marzano tomatoes and ran them through the Vitamix, adding some leftover diced tomatoes that were in the fridge used earlier in vegetable soup. Tasted the tomato puree for seasoning. It was simple and free of additives found in brand name sauces, just Italian tomato taste. Spread a thin layer on the bottom of an old oval copper au gratin pan. Placed eggplant in a thin layer, added scant layer of sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and hand-grated fresh parmesan cheese.
Turned oven to 375 degrees. When almost time for supper, slid the copper pan into the oven and baked for about half an hour until golden brown on top. Made a salad of lettuce, cucumber and red onion.
While i was dredging and frying the eggplant slices, I had a fleeting thought that maybe making this dish was too much trouble. Later, however, G. and I agreed that this was probably the best eggplant parmigiana we’d ever had. I think it might have been due to a) thinner eggplant slices encased in tasty breadcrumbs; b) very little unprocessed and simple tomato sauce that did not drown the eggplant nor made it soggy; and c) real parmesan cheese hand grated at the last minute, added to the mozzarella cheese.There was no salt at all except for what had been wiped off the raw eggplant after curing it of its innate bitterness. We’re so glad there’s enough left over for us to eat again tomorrow!
For dessert, there were still two pieces of the sour cream chocolate cake that I made the other day–half a recipe in a small square pan, frosted with ready-made chocolate icing. “Delicious!” G.’s mother commented after they finished theirs last night. His mother is ninety-five and lives across the street with G.’s brother, J.
This afternoon, G. handed me his Nikon to download photos of the cardinals who sing outside our home and flit around in the trees and bushes. We feel they are a positive sign from the universe and protect us with their colorful presence. G. maintains there are two pairs of cardinals whom he has observed squabbling with the chickadees for territory. Here are some images to enjoy!