Since posting my recipe for the Best Chicken Parmesan, I've been getting tons of requests for my version of an oven-fried Eggplant Parmesan. It might sound like a simple substitution, but eggplants are quite different from chicken and so it's not as simple as swapping out the chicken for eggplant. To understand how we need to change the recipe to work for eggplant we first need to understand how eggplant differs from chicken.
Eggplant has a spongy porous texture, which makes it great for absorbing flavors, but when it's deep fried, it also tends to absorb frying oil like a mop. The thing is, it's that absorption of oil that gives the eggplant a marvelous creamy texture and rich taste. Thats why baked eggplants tend to end up dried out and chewy, or spongy and watery.
This fundamental problem is what's kept me from doing an eggplant parmesan recipe sooner. But recently, while working on another recipe, I realized that if I soaked the eggplant in enough oil before roasting it, it turns out just as tender and creamy as a fried eggplant.
The next problem was that I envisioned my eggplant parmesan having thick steak-like rounds of eggplant. But when you slice the eggplant too thick, it tends to release a lot of water while cooking, leaving the breading soggy. To avoid this, I salt the pieces first, to coax out the excess water. This also has the added benefit of seasoning the eggplant to the core.
After being salted and squeezed, the eggplant needs to literally be bathed in olive oil before going through the flour, egg, breadcrumb routine. This allows enough oil to soak into each piece of eggplant so that it has the creamy consistency of fried eggplant.
Since we're soaking the eggplant in oil, you may be wondering why I don't just fry it. Well, if you're anything like me and hate cleaning up the splattered mess that deep frying leaves, that alone should be reason enough, but if you're still not convinced, I'm fairly certain deep fried eggplant is going to absorb a heck of a lot more than three tablespoons of oil.
Like croutons in a bowl of French onion soup, this eggplant parm has a crackling crisp crust of bread and browned cheese on top, a tender flavorful bottom, and a rich velvety disc of eggplant in between. I like using a meat sauce for this dish because of the extra flavor it adds, but if you want to make this vegetarian, just swap out the sauce portion of this recipe for my basic tomato sauce
- 2 medium eggplants
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup panko
- 25 grams Parmesan cheese (grated about ¼ cup)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ small onion (finely diced)
- 7 grams garlic (1 large clove minced)
- 90 grams ground beef
- 2 tablespoons red wine
- 400 grams whole stewed tomatoes (1 small can)
- ⅓ cup water
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 100 grams Mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- 12 grams Parmesan cheese (grated about 2 tablespoons)
- Trim both ends off the eggplants and cut them into 9 rounds about 1-inch thick. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant evenly on both sides with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let them sit for about 45 minutes. This coaxes the excess water out of the eggplant, which helps the breading crisp.
- After resting for 45 minutes, use paper towels and the palms of your hands to press out as much water as you can from the eggplant slices.
- Drizzle the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and keep flipping the slices over until the eggplant has absorbed all the oil.
- Prepare a baking sheet with a wire rack inside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare 3 small bowls. Add the flour to one bowl. Add the egg to the second and beat until uniform. Add the panko and grated parmesan to the third bowl and stir to combine.
- Dust the eggplant slices in flour and pat off any extra flour with your hands so that each slice has a thin even coat of flour without any clumps.
- Dip the floured eggplant in the egg mixture, coating every surface and then transfer the eggplant to the bowl with the breadcrumbs.
- Shake the bowl, using a tossing motion to coat the pieces evenly with bread crumbs, pressing down on them to ensure you get a nice even coating.
- Place the breaded eggplant onto the wire rack and then bake until the eggplant is tender when poked with a toothpick and the breading is light brown (about 30-40 minutes).
- While the eggplant bakes, make the sauce by adding the olive oil, onions and garlic to a pan and saute over medium-high heat until the onions are tender and are starting to brown.
- Add the ground meat and saute, breaking up the chunks until the meat is cooked.
- Add the wine and let it boil until most of the liquid is gone.
- Add the stewed tomatoes, water, salt, oregano and pepper, breaking up the tomatoes with a spatula.
- Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook the sauce for 10 minutes.
- When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and turn the heat up to 500 degrees F (260 C).
- Pour the sauce into a 10-inch square baking dish. Lay the oven-fried eggplant on top of the sauce.
- Cover the eggplant with mozzarella and the remaining parmesan cheese.
- Bake the eggplant parmesan until the cheese is golden brown and crusty (about 10-15 minutes).
Esther Crocker says
Hi Marc, I'm from Australia and I've never heard the term "XXX Parm" as anything but a shortening of the word "Parmigiana" until looking at a lot of American recipes. I thought the origin of the name came from the region of Parma, Italy and referred to the sliced ham (Parma ham) that is used in the dish, and not the type of cheese (parmesan), I've also only ever heard of it made with mozzerella baked on top. As a curious cook, I like to know the etymology of names, and I wonder if you had any light to shed on the difference? Could it be that the American term "XX Parmesan" came to being from a misunderstanding of "parma", a shorter/popular name that stuck and became popular? Thanks!
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Curiouscook, the American (and presumably the Australian) version of the dish is based on the Italian dish Parmigiana. Both the north and south claim the dish so it's unclear whether the dish is originally from Parma.
Parmigiana and Parmesan are the same word just in two different languages. The former is the Italian spelling/pronunciation and the latter is the French. Both just mean "in the style of Parma."
The parmesan in XXX parmesan is therefore not referring to the cheese nor the ham (which also just happen to be originally from Parma), but rather from the region that the dish first appeared.
Likely the US learned of the dish via France while Australia learned about it via Italy.
This is quite similar to the Cook's Illustrated version that I've used for many years. But theirs doesn't involve the bathing-in-olive-oil part. I'll give that a try! Also, I've always used fresh breadcrumbs (for this and when I fry green tomatoes) b/c I was worried the panko wouldn't crisp up enough--but I'll try that as well. Thanks!
This is the only place I get recipes from, period. I used to google for an hour for a recipe that wasn't for a deep-south stay at home mom or a foodie with a sous la vide and 10 hours (not knocking either demographic!!!), but now I just pick something from here. Awesome mix of accessible informative recipes and interesting, varied food.
Actually, that isn't true; the only other recipe I use is this one: https://norecipes.com/curried-ratatouille/
It sort of blows everything out of the water, especially when I roast/puree/add a few ancho (or other) chilis.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Austin, I'm glad to hear you're enjoying my posts:-)
Marc Matsumoto says
HI Lesli, I haven't tried CI's eggplant parm, but I've found the olive oil bath to the pretty important for the texture. Does CI fry their eggplant first?
No, which is why I like it--I'm terrible at frying. It's basically the same as your version except without the olive oil. And I do a slight variation on mine from their recipe, but trust me, it's amazing! (so much lighter and healthy but still tastes decadent)
Hello Marc, I'm from Indonesia and I'm very glad to found your website. I really like to eat eggplant but according to my knowledge, the varieties of Indonesian dishes that use eggplant are very few. The most common and famous one is "Terong Balado" and for me it's too spicy and too oily. That's why I like to browse for foreign eggplant dishes. And I really glad to find your websites! 🙂 I just tried this recipes and it turned out great, except for the appearance can't be as good looking as yours and I have no mozarella so I substitute it with cheddar. The taste is absolutely wonderful! English is not my native language so pardon me if I there are any mistake in my writing! Thank u so much! 😀
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi K.Wang, thanks so much for your nice note. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the dish! —
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Great recipe! Thank you. Many years ago, an Italian chef taught me to soak the eggplant in salt water to draw out the bitterness that can come with leftovers, which I always plan into my cooking. That may mean your salting method covers this step. Did you find it to be true?
so true. All the chefs I've known and worked with tell me it is a "style of cooking". Like curry, which is also a style of cooking, not one set dish.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Channon, most modern eggplants have been bred to not be bitter, it's not necessary to salt them (the salt draws out water from the eggplant which reduces it's bitterness). The reason why I salt them here is to reduce the moisture content. Soaking them in salt water will actually increase the water content so I would not recommend it.
Packed with flavor! Amazing and delicious! Thank you for a great recipe Marc 🙂