This is a classic vegetarian meal, but I have to admit I don't make it very often at home. It is delicious but I am not always up for the whole breading, frying and baking process. There are alternatives to cut down on the preparation, for example, the eggplant can be barbequed or broiled without any breading. This time I made it by the book, because I love the crunchiness of the breaded and fried eggplants. This dish is better eaten fresh, left overs tend to get mushy (eggplant) and rubbery (mozzarella). If you are cooking for yourself only (as I often do), split this dish into two baking dishes and bake them as needed (keep the unbaked dish in the refrigerator).
You can use this recipe to make chicken, beef or pork parmesan too, just substitute the protein of your choice and adjust the cooking time accordingly. When I was a kid back in Brazil I used to like the beef version, with breaded thin beef fillets swimming in tomato sauce and topped with lots of melted cheese. It is a great way to use those less expensive thin cuts of meat.
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe:
serves 2 (recipe can multiplied to make more servings)
You will need:
1 small eggplant
flour (about 1/2 cup)
panko or breadcrumbs (about 1 cup)
2 eggs, beaten
tomato sauce (about 2 cups)
fresh basil leaves
canola or olive oil for shallow frying
Preheat oven to medium heat (350 degrees).
Cut eggplant crosswise into 1/2 inch thick rounds, place it in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for about 30 minutes (this will remove some of the bitterness from the eggplant).
Have 3 bowls or plates ready for your breading station. Place flour in the first one, the eggs in the second and the panko or breadcrumbs in the third plate or bowl.
Pat dry the eggplant slices and bread them by coating them first with flour, dipping in the eggs and coating again with the panko or breadcrumbs. Shallow fry eggplant slices in hot oil until they are golden brown, about 4-5 minutes total. Make sure the oil is hot, otherwise the eggplant will soak it up and be greasy. Drain eggplants in paper towel and set aside.
In an oven-proof dish, spoon some tomato sauce, place half of the eggplants side by side fitting snuggly in the dish. Layer slices of mozzarella cheese (or use shredded), basil leaves and tomato sauce. Repeat another layer starting again with the eggplant slices, mozzarella, basil, tomato sauce. Top it all with extra mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bake it until golden and bubbly.