Eggplant Parmesan

I don’t really like eggplant.  It gets all mushy and slimy when it’s over-cooked.  The seeds are unpleasant and hard to chew.  I have had it with pasta in various sauces, stir-fried and spicy in Chinatown, grilled with steak seasoning to mask thats it is a vegetable, served cold in Istanbul marinated in Mediterranean flavors, as well as in many other variations.  Unfortunately, I did not care for any of these variations.  I keep trying it, though, because I feel like I should like it.

There is one way I will happily eat eggplant and I know many people will agree with me.  Eggplant Parmesan deliciously masks all the things I dislike about eggplant.  It is pan-fried, smothered in a rich tomato sauce and then covered with toasted cheese.  What could you dislike about that?  No it isn’t the healthiest way to eat it, but it is the only way I eat it happily without complaint, instead of pushing it around my plate, shoveling down a couple bites washed with bread and water, hoping no one notices I didn’t really eat it.

So if you don’t like eggplant like me, try it like this.  You won’t be disappointed.  You will eat it and hope you have enough for leftovers the next day.  Mine is in the fridge right now.  Is it lunch time yet?

1 medium eggplant*
½ cup flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
¾ cup plain bread crumbs (or seasoned)**
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced***
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½  cup Parmesan (divided)
vegetable oil
2 cups tomato sauce (homemade is best, but jarred will do)
½ cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet coat the bottom with vegetable oil and bring to a medium to medium-high heat.  The pan will be ready when you sprinkle a few drops of water into the pan and they sizzle.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the eggplant.  Slice the eggplant into ½ inch circles and set aside.  Prepare an assembly line of 3 bowls (or plates) next to your skillet. In the farthest from the skillet, add flour, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and toss together.  In the middle bowl, add the egg and milk and whisk together.  In the bowl closet to the skillet, add the breadcrumbs, ¼ cup parmesan, parsley (reserve 1 teaspoon for garnish), oregano, garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix together.

Once skillet is heated, take an eggplant slice and coat both sides in the flour mixture, dusting off any excess.  Next dunk it into the egg mixture, again removing any excess.  Then coat the slice in the breadcrumb mixture, shaking off the excess.  Finally, place the breaded slice in the hot oil.  It should begin to sizzle and slightly bubble around the edges.  Continue this with enough slices to fill your skillet, but not overcrowd it.  Cook the slices on until golden brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per a side.  Remove from pan and allow to drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels or a drying rack.  Continue with the rest of your slices.  (I recommend placing the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven to keep the slices warm, while you continue cooking the rest.)

Once completed with all the slices, line them up in a few layers in a individual serving bowl or baking dish that is oven-safe.  Pour ½ cup of the tomato sauce over each bowl or 1 cup over all of them in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with mozarella and remaining parmesan cheese.  Place the dish(es) under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden brown.  Remove from broiler, sprinkle with reserved parsley and serve.  If desired, you can pair it with spaghetti pasta tossed in your tomato sauce or with a simple salad and bread.

*Prefer chicken parmesan?  Just swap out the eggplant for chicken breast cutlet (pound them thin for a more tender bite and even cooking) and cook them 4-5 minutes per side.
**I store mine in the freezer so they last longer.
***Okay no, mine does not have fresh parsley, because I used it all in my falafel last weekend, but that’s okay it’s still tasty.  If you have it, though, use it.  Parsley makes things taste fresher and look pretty.  If you don’t, use 2 teaspoon dried parsley, which is what I did.

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