Eggplant Parmigiana

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

    as a main course

Appears in

One of the problems I’ve always had with this dish is that the fried eggplant was too oily, but I did not like to bake or grill the eggplant either because the flavor wasn’t right. Although eggplant soaks up oil easily, ironically the more oil you fry it in, the less it absorbs. Also, once cooked, it usually releases most of the absorbed oil. So the trick, I discovered, is frying the eggplant in a lot of oil, at least 1 inch deep in the pan, and simply removing the excess oil after baking. Salting the eggplant before frying draws the bitterness out.

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Total time from start to finish: hours

Ingredients

  • pounds eggplants
  • Salt
  • 3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh whole-milk mozzarella
  • 1 quart vegetable oil, or more depending on the size of the pan
  • cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 15 basil leaves

Method

  1. Peel the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom and sides of a colander and sprinkle with salt. Top with another layer of eggplant and sprinkle with salt again. Continue until all of the eggplant is in the colander. Place a bowl on top of the eggplant with something in it to weight it down. Leave the colander in the sink for an hour while the salt draws out the eggplant’s bitterness.
  2. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and put them in a 10-inch skillet with the olive oil. Place over medium heat and season with salt. Cook until the tomatoes are reduced and no longer watery, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Thinly slice the mozzarella.
  4. Choose a deep sauté pan that will fit no more than 2 slices of eggplant and pour in the oil. If the pan is wider, you’ll need more oil to come 1 inch up the side of the pan. Place over medium-high heat. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet or line a plate with paper towels.
  5. While the oil is heating, begin patting the eggplant slices dry with paper towels. When the oil is hot enough to make the corner of an eggplant slice sizzle, carefully slip in 2 eggplant slices and fry until golden brown on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the slices over and brown on the other side. Lift the eggplant out of the pan, letting as much oil as possible drip back into the pan, then place on the wire rack or paper-towel-lined plate. Continue until all the eggplant is fried.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400° on convection heat, or 425° on regular bake.
  7. Put a layer of eggplant on the bottom of an 11 × 8-inch baking dish but not all the way to the edges to make it easier to remove the excess oil later. Spread one-fifth of the tomatoes over the eggplant, then place one-fifth of the mozzarella slices over the tomatoes. Sprinkle one-fifth of the Parmigiano on top. Tear 3 of the basil leaves into small pieces and sprinkle over the cheese. Repeat until you have 5 layers.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven. Tip the dish to the side and use a small ladle to scoop out as much oil as possible. Put the dish back in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 5 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven and scoop out any remaining oil in the pan. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note

You can prepare this dish 2 to 3 days ahead of time. Reheat in the oven at 350° or in a microwave.

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