I love learning the history behind recipes. How they came to be, when someone discovered it, and what made them want to try it. I can honestly say today’s recipe has a little bit of a story to it, perhaps not a vintage one but it exists none the less. I didn’t grow up eating eggplant, in fact it was one of those vegetables that my Mom did not like at all!
She grew up in IL and had some bad memories of eating it in soupy casseroles. Even her dad, my Papaw, didn’t like eggplant for similar reasons. He wasn’t a fan of the eggplant flavor. The eggplant in and of itself is not a great tasting vegetable. As is, it can be bitter and once cooked it gets all mushy. It’s not a very promising vegetable unless you know how to wrangle it into deliciousness. The first time I tried eggplant we were living in Brazil. A common appetizer down there is to have a salad and a little dish of condiments is brought to the table. Black olives(the real deal, not the dyed stuff), olive oil, and some other goodies. And it just so happens that the restaurant we were at included roasted eggplant. I scooped up a little bit and added it to my salad willing to try something new. Have. Mercy. Flavor sensation! I was in love!!!
Needless to say after that experience I wanted more 😀 I went through my Mom’s cookbooks looking for eggplant recipes and most of them offered recipes for parmesan. I had never made one before and the cookbook I decided to go with was a Southern Living cookbook that my Mom had received from her sister. We still have it to this day! It’s such a handy book, on the side margins it gives little kitchen helps and suggestions and there happen to be a suggestion for eggplant. I remember telling my Mom I was going to attempt making an eggplant parmesan and she wasn’t too thrilled. All she could picture was a watery version from her childhood. I get it, that’s a rather scary image. But I told her that the recipe I was going to use sounded really good and to trust me!
With fingers crossed and a quick prayer I plowed on ahead and to this day(some 14 years later) this recipe is her favorite! And in her words, “it gets better every time you make it!” High praises indeed! I have kept this recipe rather guarded, thinking that since it’s such an involved recipe that no one will ever want to make it. True it does take me about 3–4 hours to make if I do not have the eggplant prepped ahead of time, but the end results are worth all the sweat and pain that goes into this dish! I believe someone who is reading this right now will try this recipe and fall in love with eggplant parmesan just like my Mom (and my Papaw) does now!
Eggplant Parmesan with Alfredo Sauce
2 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4 –1/8 inch round slices
4 eggs, whisked thoroughly
3–4 sleeves Saltine crackers, processed in Food Processor or Blender
2 tsp dried sweet basil
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
oil for frying
Favorite Spaghetti Sauce(homemade or jar)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Favorite Pasta Noodles(I used Dreamfields Angel Hair Pasta)
Alfredo Sauce(homemade or jar)
The very first step is to cut off the ends of the eggplant and peel the skin off. I used a potato peeler rather easily. With a serrated knife(bread knife, steak knife, etc) slice the eggplant into thin rounds. As thin as you can manage. Some of my slices look a tad thick there but the majority were about 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thick. For this recipe the thinner the slice, the better! And you’re going to salt each slice. The salt will draw out the bitterness and excess liquid from the eggplant. You can’t see it from the images but I started out with a sprinkle of salt in the bottom of the bowl and laid three slices on top of it. Sprinkled a little more salt on those and keep going until both eggplants are in the bowl. You have to let each salted eggplant sit for 30 minutes, so since I did two I let them sit for an hour. You can see in the second image some liquid beginning to pool there at the bottom.
An hour later the eggplant is ready to be rinsed thoroughly in lukewarm water. One secret trick I do to make sure all the liquid is rendered from each slice is I squeeze them gently before rinsing. Which will leave you with this…
Gross I know and this is why it is so important to salt the eggplant. This rendered liquid is what makes most eggplant parms watery and bitter. After this process you are left with is a fresh tasting vegetable ready to be transformed into a delicious parmesan! Toss this liquid out since there is no need for it.
Add about an inch of oil to a skillet and get it hot.
After you have rinsed the eggplant and layered them on paper towels on a baking sheet(as you see above in the picture), whisk together the eggs until they are foamy on top. Crush the crackers till it’s a fine dust and mix it with black pepper, dried sweet basil and parmesan cheese. Get everything lined up in a way that will make it efficient for you to dip in the egg wash and coat with the cracker mix for frying.
Try to use whole slices and discard half slices or tiny bits. Those will just add to your cooking time and take longer. Which I should have done that but I was deluding myself that I could cook up every piece. Learn from me and skip the bits. Just wanted to show here what the eggplant slice looks after the egg wash and you want to cook them till their are golden brown. If your oil is at the right temp(about 350*F) then you won’t need any towels to drain the slices. There was barely any oil on the plate when I was done.
Now I was running behind on time and I did not get pictures of layering these slices in a baking dish. The next time I make this I will be sure to update this post with those pictures! But I promise it’s so easy and it goes by quickly! Spray one of those deep aluminum foil roasting pans with cooking spray and ladle some sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Begin layering the fried slices of eggplant over the sauce until you can no longer see the sauce layer. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and ladle more sauce over it. Repeat these layers until you reach the top layer. You should end with parmesan cheese and then you add the mozzarella cheese on top. Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 375*F oven for 35–40 minutes. Remove the foil and finish baking for 10 minutes or until it’s bubbly around the edges. Serve over favorite pasta with Alfredo sauce.
I will no lie to you, this is a labor intensive recipe. It takes me about 3–4 hours to make it from start to finish BUT it is so worth it and you will love it more than your favorite Italian restaurant’s version. Plus if you make the eggplant slices up ahead of time and freeze them(yes these freeze well) then you will shave those hours off of your meal prep and have dinner ready in 45-50 minutes. Serve this up with your favorite garlic bread and salad and enjoy Italian at home! My Papaw enjoyed this dish and we never told him he was eating eggplant. When slices are thin they become almost like meat. Sometimes I just like to eat the slices after they’ve been fried, so crisp and hardly a hint that I’m even eating eggplant!
If you are brave enough to try this recipe, please let me know below! I would love to hear from you and your experience with this recipe! 🙂