There are many foods in this world that I love. And most of them, I eventually get sick of. Or at least, most of them I wouldn’t want to eat 7 days a week.
But there are a couple foods I love so much that I can’t help but eat them every chance I get. At the top of that list, my darlings, is this: Fried Eggplant.
I know, I know. Fried Eggplant?? WTF??
So while planning the weekly shopping for this week, I realized that I really wanted to work fried eggplant into the menu. And while I can eat just plain old eggplant, fried, as a meal….. it’s not exactly well-balanced. And I have a Jesse to think about too, to whom I wouldn’t feel right feeding JUST a fried eggplant.
I love eggplant parm, but my favorite thing about fried eggplant is the way the crispy crust contrasts with the soft, sweet eggplant. And when you do parm, it all becomes a bit soggy. I need that contrast. I need that crunch. It’s hard to get the crunch when the eggplant is buried under a mountain of sauce and cheese (not that I don’t LOVE sauce and cheese).
While thinking and wondering how on earth I was going to work fried eggplant into dinner, I had an epiphany!!!
Eggplant Parm could be deconstructed!!! It was nothing more than fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese! WHo said it had to be all melty and sauce? NOBODY, that’s who!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you…..
1 medium eggplant cut into even-thickness discs. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt on each circle and set them salt-side up on a cooling rack. The salt draws out the bitterness of the eggplant. After 20 minutes, OR when there are little beads of liquid on the surface of the eggplant discs, rinse off the salt with cool water and dry them as thoroughly as possible with paper towels, a dishtowel, a hairdryer, do what you have to do.
1 -2 cups flour, divided. Put 1/2 cup on a plate. Put the rest in a deep bowl or soup plate.
1 cup Panko. Put this into the deep bowl/soup plate with the flour.
1 egg, beaten with 3 tablespoons of water.
Slice 1 large tomato into discs mirroring the size of the eggplant discs.
Slice 1/4 pound of mozzarella into discs as well.
Put enough oil in your skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat it up until some of the panko/flour mixture fries instantly. Then, start the dredging assembly line!!! Flour, egg, Flour/panko. You are going to have to convince the second breading to stick to the eggplant. It will not want to. You will have to press, and smash, and coax it onto the egg-dredged eggplant rounds. And don’t forget to roll the skin side around in the dredge. Eggplant takes some convincing. But it will be worth it. I promise.
Put the lovely little breaded eggplant discs in the pan. My pan holds 4 at a time. They should float a little…. otherwise they stay down in the icky oil that gets clogged up with fallen-off flour and it’s not a good time. Fry them until they’re roughly golden-brown, flip AWAY FROM YOU so you don’t splatter yourself with hot oil (not like I’ve EVER remembered that lesson), and when they’re done, remove them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it, in the oven at about 200. OR you could preheat your oven, and turn it off when you start frying. You just want the rounds to stay warm and dry out a little, because the oil will make the crust soggy, and that’s just not cool.
Mmmmm. Hello little ones. I’ll be back for you, promise!!
Once you’ve fried your eggplant, and let it cool (very important), stack it and your sliced tomato and mozzarella on a lovely bun. I used brioche hamburger buns from Fresh Direct, because I’m fancy:
The sandwich was delish. I’d recommend stacking the tomato on the bottom, then the cheese, then the eggplant, so you still experience the joy of the crispy crust. Repeat as often as your supplies will allow, and enjoy.