A few weeks ago, as I stood at the counter flouring, egg dipping, and breading two pounds of eggplant rounds, a little dolly screaming at my feet wanting nothing more than to be held at the height of this witching hour, I found myself asking “WHY?!” I know better than to make this sort of thing at this sort of hour. I shouldn’t be so stubborn. But a craving for eggplant parmesan left me inflexible, and I pushed on until crumbs and parmesan covered every slice, trying to stay composed through every piercing cry. Oiy.
But as soon as those rounds entered the oven, I relaxed. And this is the beauty of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook eggplant parmesan recipe. Once the breading is done, the hard work is over — there is no standing at the oven, frying the eggplant in batch after batch. The Test Kitchen’s recipe calls for baking the eggplant on preheated baking sheets, a technique they developed to solve the oil-laden, pan-fried eggplant problem that leads to heavy, greasy eggplant parmesan. Oven-frying saves time to boot.
If you’ve made eggplant parmesan, you know, however, that no matter what time-saving tricks you’ve devised, it is still a labor of love. The eggplant should be salted and drained for about 40 minutes, which makes the slices less prone to soaking up gobs of oil. Breading takes time, too, and if you make your own sauce and breadcrumbs, you’re going to be spending some time in the kitchen.
But this time of year, there is nothing more comforting than a cheese-and-sauce bubbling casserole, and the Test Kitchen’s recipe is so good. I’ve shared the full recipe over on Food52, and I’ve included a little variation here in case exhaustion gets the best of you, and upon seeing those crispy eggplant rounds emerge from the oven, you throw in the towel and call dinner done — I’ve stopped here on more than one occasion. These crispy rounds are irresistible, and with a few slices of cheese, some bread, sauce, maybe some prosciutto or other cured meats, you can make a meal out of them. Little ones, teary eyed or otherwise, seem to like them, too.
Making the sauce:
A labor of love, but worth every effort. Full recipe over on Food52:
Crispy Eggplant Rounds
Here I used about 1 lb. of eggplant (1 purple, 1 white), 1/2 cup of flour, 3/4 cup panko, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Instead of seasoning the breadcrumbs with salt, I seasoned the breaded eggplant rounds with salt before they entered the oven, and seasoned them again when I flipped them.
Most recently when I made these rounds, I used both white and purple eggplant. This was my first experience with white eggplant, and I loved it — the white rounds seemed to stay crisper, and they tasted lighter and milder. Love them.
A few other favorite eggplant recipes: