My Mother’s Eggplant Parmesan

My mother makes this for me almost every time I visit her. eggplant4 4.6.13Or she brings it with her when she visits me. Or she gives it to my sister to bring back to me when my sister visits her.

It’s one of my favorite ways to have eggplant.

And because my mom makes it for me, I hadn’t ever made it for myself.

But sometimes months go by between visits. So I decided to get proactive.

I called my mom for instruction.

This is what she does to make one of the nicest eggplant parmesans ever. It’s nothing like the thick-sliced, thick-cheesed versions you’ll often find in restaurants, which can be absolutely terrific. But this is different. It’s all about thin, layered slices of eggplant that melt into each other.

It takes just a few ingredients, and a little bit of time.

So…

  • One eggplant (I used a large-ish one. I wanted a size that would fill a 9″ x 13″ baking dish nicely.)
  • Flour, to dredge the eggplant into
  • Eggs, to dip the dredged slices into (It took five beaten eggs for me.)
  • Oil to fry in, your choice
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • A light tomato sauce (For a quick tomato sauce, I often simmer a large can of crushed tomatoes, with a little garlic, salt and pepper, maybe a bay leaf. But, in the cabinet, we had a jar of Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce. It’s a nice sauce and worked perfectly here, for its light flavor and consistency, and for being just the right amount, with, in fact, a little left over.)

I peeled the eggplant, and then sliced it lengthwise into 1/8″ slices. I’m sure my mother does this with a knife, and I would have, but I happen to have a mandoline now, that one of my daughters got me for Christmas, so I pulled it out. It worked beautifully.

I heated oil, maybe an 1/8″ deep, in a pan over medium heat. And part way through frying, needed to add a bit more.

This is a nice time to pour a glass of wine…or beer…or other, and enjoy the process of dredging each eggplant slice in flour, knocking off the excess flour, then dipping in egg, knocking of excess egg, and laying it into the oil. When it begins to brown on one side, turn it to brown on the other. Then lay each cooked slice on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. A few layers of eggplant slices and paper towels will build up, and you will inevitably take a bite or two of the eggplant as you go along.

And you won’t be disappointed.

You can add salt and pepper to the slices as they come out of the oil if you choose. But it’s not necessary. My mother doesn’t. She feels that just frying the eggplant with the egg coating is flavor enough, and I think I agree, ’cause I seasoned a few slices, and then didn’t with the rest.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Pull out a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Spoon enough sauce to coat the bottom. Then drape eggplant slices into the dish. You may need to cut some to fit at one end or another. eggplant3 4.6.13Spoon enough sauce to cover, but never drench. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, and continue to layer til you’re out of eggplant. One last handful of grated cheese on top. Cover with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it. If it’s bubbling, it’s done.

Let it sit a few minutes, then slice into it, and put a generous piece on a plate. A fork glides through.

Yes, you could serve it with a salad. You could serve it with corn, or potatoes, or broccoli, or green beans, or bread, or….

But you may never get that far.

There are variations, of course. You could add the extra step of bread crumbs after coating in egg.

Or you could add mozzarella, or another favorite cheese.

Or you might want to do eggplant rolls. In which case, you could coat both sides of the cooked eggplant in a little sauce, then add your filling, maybe a seasoned ricotta, and roll each slice up. Layer the rolls in a baking dish, and bake as above.

It’s always a pleasure to have my mother make this, but very nice to have this in my own eggplant repertoire now, too!

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