I can't tell you how much I love eggplant parmesan - ok, I will. I love eggplant parmesan very much. I cook it in a variety of ways, in fact, even my eggplant parmesan recipe has a few variations. I figured I'd take the time to document my steps with photos while I was prepping dinner one night...
I took the time to grill them before popping it in the oven. Normally, they'd be fried on a pan but where's the fun in that, am I right? Plus the eggplants really vaccuum up the oil, so even if I do it on a pan I often 'dry fry' them without any oil at all - it's ok, they can handle it. And to be honest, I didn't find the taste of cooking on them on the BBQ first to really come through in the end product, so next time I might just fry them in the pan first.
So here's what you're going to need for this recipe:
- 1 fresh loaf of french bread - I recommend buying it on the same day, they go rock hard after a day or so
- 1 eggplant
- 1 package of fresh parmesan cheese - none of that packaged cheese that comes from 'convenience manufacturers' where it's processed into looking like the real thing.
- 1 can of tomato sauce
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. It takes time to get warm so that's your first step. Make sure the rack is in the middle shelf.
Wash the eggplant and slice it evenly from 1 end to the other in 1/4" thick slices.
Grill them on medium high heat (either BBQ or frying pan on the stove), getting a nice toast on each side. Take your time - you want each piece to get slightly soft (but not soggy) inside with a nice char on the surface. Don't be afraid to char the veggies slightly! It often adds character to the flavor that is quite nice.
Slice the french loaf in half. Try to ensure you've cut it relatively even (top and bottom) so that when you flip them both 'face up' they're both about the same height. Put them on a baking sheet before proceeding.
Using a tablespoon, rub some tomato sauce across the bread, spreading it evenly and thinly - save the majority of the sauce for later steps.
Evenly overlap the eggplant across the bread.
Sprinkle a bit of salt. How much? Meh... you decide. Not too much...more like a 'threat' than a punishment.
Using the same tablespoon (did you lick it clean and put it in the sink already? Grab a new one) pour the remainder of the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant slices so that they are fully covered and if you have enough, oozing over the edge of the eggplant onto the bread.
Grate the cheese and layer it evenly across the eggplant. You'll find the 'good stuff' sticks together in small curls, sticking into soft balls and the cheaper processed style parmesan comes out looking like even slivers of cheese that spreads with a lot less effort, but you'll suffer greatly on the end product.
Once the oven is ready, pop the tray into it with the eggplant loaf. Set the timer to 12 minutes and walk away. Don't open the oven to check, just turn the light on. The eggplant is already cooked so at this point the main task is melting the cheese.
Once the 12 minute mark occurs, switch from 'bake' to 'broil' on the oven. The cheese is already melted but now we want to get a nice 'toast' on the cheese, browning it slightly. Stay close to the oven with the light on. It could be a minute or 2, but each oven is different so watch it with the light on until you get to the point of 'toasted cheese' that satisfies you without setting the smoke alarm off.
Once you hit the desired 'toastiness' to the cheese, turn the oven off, grab the oven mits and pull the tray out of the oven, placing it on the stove to cool for a minute or so.
Now you're going to want to slice it. Here's the trick - don't use a saw toothed bread knife or you'll just tear it all to shreds. Get the SHARPEST large knife you have and push straight down through the cheese, eggplant, and bread while it's still on the baking sheet. You'll thank me for that tip (no pun intended).