I’ll See Your Chicken Parmesan and Raise You Eggplant Parmesan

Have you ever been to a restaurant that prepares vegetarian dishes exclusively? Ever wonder why everything is expensive? They’re just vegetables. Well, it’s because there’s a lot of labor involved to prepare vegetables to be as well-received as their meat counterparts.

Sometimes you come across a vegetarian recipe that is not only relatively easy to prepare, but also easy on the budget. Eggplant parmesan is a wonderful vegetarian dish that is chock full of flavor, and the meatiness of the eggplant will make you forget that you’re “just” eating a vegetarian dish.

(Step 1) Purchase one eggplant. Regardless of whether it is the regular eggplant or the Japanese variety, slice it into half-inch coins. Don’t worry about peeling it, the skin will soften when cooked.

When you have all of your eggplant rounds cut out, place them on some kind of perforated rack — a cooling rack or broiler pan or any rack that has some sort of slits in it for water to drain away.

(Step 2) At this point, you will generously salt the eggplant. This allows water to leach out of the vegetable. There are also compounds in the eggplant that will produce some bitter off flavors that will be detected unless some of the water is purged out. Refrigerate the eggplant for at least eight hours.

After you have allowed the eggplant coins to drain some of its water out, preheat your largest flat bottom pan at a medium heat.
While you wait for your pan to heat up, set up three bowls on your counter. In the first bowl, add a half cup of all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and black pepper mixed into it. In the second bowl, crack two eggs and add 2 tablespoons of milk. In the third bowl, pour 2 cups of Italian breadcrumbs and add 2 tablespoons of a dry Italian herb blend.

(Step 3) Pat your eggplant coins with a dry paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Then one by one, place them in the flour mixture. Flip them to cover both sides with flour, then transfer them over to the egg mixture and flip to get equal coverage of egg on both sides.

Finally, transfer over the the breadcrumb mixture and allow both sides to get a liberal covering. You can press the eggplant into this mixture to get as much coverage as possible, then place it on a clean plate. Repeat this process for all the coins.

(Step 4) Once all the the eggplant beauties are coated thoroughly with the goodies, pour enough vegetable oil in the pan to cover the bottom and to come about a quarter-inch up in the pan. Carefully place the coins one by one in the pan and allow them to pan fry for about two to three minutes per side or until a nice golden brown color is achieved. Take them out of the pan and drain on the rack you originally had your coins resting on with the salt.

At this point they are ready to eat. But let’s gild the lily a little bit.

(Step 5) Pour some marinara sauce on top of the fried eggplant — just enough to cover only a quarter top of them with the sauce. Then sprinkle some low moisture, shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce and place under the broiler on high for a couple minutes.
Keep your peepers on them at this point as you do not want them to burn, you just want to melt the cheese thoroughly.

(Step 6&7) Take them out of the oven and plate them and sprinkle some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and minced fresh flat leaf parsley on top. Serve with a pasta of your choice covered in the same marinara sauce you topped your eggplant with. Enjoy.

Recipe box

Ingredients needed: eggplant, eggs, Italian bread crumbs, milk, low moisture mozzarella cheese, all-purpose flour, Italian dry herb blend, marinara sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper.

1. Cut eggplant into half-inch coins, salt and allow to drain on perforated rack in refrigerator for at least eight hours.
2. Add salt to eggplant coins to allow some of the water to drain out.
3. Cover eggplant coins in flour, egg and bread crumb mixture.
4. Pan fry until golden brown.
5. Cover coins partially with marinara sauce and then top them off with mozzarella cheese and broil on high until cheese melts.
6. Top with parmesan cheese and minced flat leaf parsley.
7. Serve with your choice of pasta in marinara sauce.