We have an abundance of eggplant this year. It is one of my favorite vegetables and, even though we prepare it a number of ways, I am partial to breading and frying it. My Aunt Fran makes the best eggplant Parmesan I have ever eaten. I have stood beside her and watched her cook it, taking notes as she went along. She thinks there is nothing to it, but she has the right touch. Part of the touch may be that, during the summer months, she breads and fries garden-fresh eggplant in regular olive oil, not extra virgin. She drains it on a paper towel, then places it in a single layer on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet and then freezes it. Once the slices are frozen she puts the individual slices in plastic bags and keeps them frozen until she needs them for a meal. Her eggplant is a must-have for the family Christmas Eve dinner. I am approaching the wonderful flavor of Aunt Fran’s eggplant with this recipe. She does not use mozzarella, only pecorino Romano cheese, but I like a bit of mozzarella on mine. My husband grows Japanese Kamo eggplant that are round, dark purple, and have a very creamy consistency. This has become my favorite variety for eggplant Parmesan. Slice it rather thick – at least 1/4 inch. You don’t need to cook the eggplant all the way through. Just fry it until golden on each side. It will continue cooking in the oven with the sauce and cheese.
Aunt Fran’s Tomato Sauce for Eggplant
2-4 Tbsp. olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (8 oz.) cans Hunts or Del Monte tomato sauce
salt and pepper
In a saucepan heat oil on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add canned sauce, salt, pepper and basil to taste. Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes.
2 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 c. Progresso Italian style breadcrumbs
mozzarella cheese (optional)
In a bowl combine eggs with a little salt and pepper and 1-2 Tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese. Beat with a fork until well mixed. In a separate bowl combine breadcrumbs and 1-2 Tbsp. Pecorino Romano cheese. Mix well. Dip eggplant slices in egg, allowing the excess egg to drip off, then dip eggplant into breadcrumbs, coating well on both sides. Heat olive oil in a frying pan to about 325 degrees. Fry eggplant slices for 2-3 minutes until golden, then turn over and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the other side is equally golden. Remove eggplant from oil, allowing excess to drip off. Drain on paper towels. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Add a layer of eggplant. Spoon a bit more sauce over the eggplant, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. (At this point I put a little mozzarella on top of the eggplant but Aunt Fran does not.) Continue layering until the eggplant is used up. Bake in a 350-degree oven, uncovered, until the cheese is melted. It should take about 15 minutes. Serves 6.