Eggplant is something that, I think, if you didn't grow up eating it, is weird- it's bitter, it has weird seeds, it gets all brown. I can honestly say when I was growing up, we ate eggplant next to never. My mom is the best, but she worked full time and wasn't really the type to venture out in the cookbooks and make a variety of dishes. My husband's family, on the other hand, apparently ate it all the time. My mother in law is more prone to cooking the types of food in which eggplant would more commonly be found. They also lived in Italy for a few years when my husband was young, so that probably influenced her cooking as well. As such, my husband + eggplant = best friends. Me + eggplant = I have to think about it. But since he likes it so much, I usually cook it once a month in something. Or, if I'm lucky, he'll cook it in some pasta. The best eggplant recipe I've found so far is this sandwich from Cooking Light.
Now, of course I've heard of eggplant parmesan and seen it at restaurants, but not being an eggplant fan, I was never one to try it. But I found a recipe on Simply Recipes (I'm trying a bunch of stuff on there now right now) and thought it sounded like something my husband would like. This recipe is straightforward, but a little time-consuming. Preparing the eggplant and frying it takes some time, so I did this on a Sunday. This recipe is wonderful! My husband said it tasted pretty authentic Italian. Even our 17 month old ate a ton of it (the 3 year old ate Apple Jacks, but 50% success is good for us).
I'm not really sure why you bread and fry the eggplant in oil, only to top it with cheese and tomato sauce, but hey that's what it says. Next time, I would probably just bake it instead of fry it. Also, make sure you slice the eggplant thinly so they're soft after baking. If you have small children, you may even want to skin the eggplants. I would NOT recommend skipping the initial draining step. Eggplants contain a lot of moisture. Salting them and letting them sit cuts down the moisture, as well as the bitterness.
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
adapted from Simply Recipes
2 lbs (about 2 large) eggplants
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (I used no-salt added)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 lbs of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (I used an 8-oz pkg of shredded)
1 cup grated high quality Parmesan cheese
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1 Cut eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange one layer in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle evenly with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting, until all eggplant is in the colander. Weigh down the slices with a couple of plates and let drain for 2 hours. The purpose of this step is to have the eggplant release some of its moisture before cooking.
2 While the eggplant is draining, prepare tomato sauce. Combine tomatoes, garlic and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
3 When eggplant has drained, press down on it to remove excess water, wipe off the excess salt, and lay the slices out on paper towels to remove all the moisture. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs. Mix well. Pour beaten eggs into another wide shallow bowl. Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat, and pour in a a half inch of olive oil. When oil is shimmering, dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg. Working in batches, slide coated eggplant into hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels.
4 Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bottom of a 10x15 inch glass baking dish, spread 1 cup of tomato sauce. Top with one third of the eggplant slices. Top eggplant with half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with one third of the Parmesan and half of the basil leaves.
5 Make a second layer of eggplant slices, topped by 1 cup of sauce, remaining mozzarella, half the remaining Parmesan, and all of the remaining basil. Add remaining eggplant, and top with the remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan.
6 Bake until cheese has melted and the top is slightly brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.