Sometimes I get hard core writers block. Let’s be honest it happens A LOT. I want to tell you that making this recipe for eggplant parmesan will make the vegetable haters in your life swoon and your vegetarian friends beg for invites to your house when you are cooking this. I want to write you things that are funny, witty, poetic….things that might make you cry or laugh out loud. Sometimes I want to tell you a story that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside or feel all nostalgic for your momma’s peach pie. And when I can’t do that sometimes I don’t want to write for you at all.
Sometimes with kids screaming and the house a mess and the building of anxiety in my throat over the fact that dinner just HAS to get on the table I just can’t write. But when I don’t write I die a little inside. I pace the house and check Facebook incessantly trying to fill the time where getting the words out of my head and onto paper normally fills. I wish I could always write you expertly crafted recipe headers and use the words excited, yummy, blow your mind and amazing, less than I do. And some days….I’m on it. And others I’m just not. But I’ve decided that on those other days….I’m gonna keep writing to you. In this conversational style that my english teachers would write big fat F’s all over.
Because I like to think that we are friends. In a strange way this is like us sitting down for coffee and what I want to tell you isn’t that I’m perfect (I’m so not) but that you don’t have to be perfect to be okay. That you can be a hot mess and know that you aren’t alone and that you are going to make it. I want you to know that these people whose perfect lives you look at through their blogs and wonder what the heck is wrong with you, aren’t really that perfect. That they….we…are human, and messy and are failing in different areas in our lives too just so that we can write to you.
We moved home to Oregon this last week….being back home is weird. I want to jump for joy and break down and sob at the same time. My little hometown is so….big. And trendy and expensive. All the feelings of a lifetime of living on these streets and in these stores has come slamming up to who I am as a person, threatening to overtake the confidence I felt in my home, my space, my dominion back in the little town in Georgia we called home for 3 years.
It is so easy, particularly as we are staying with family and job searching, to grapple that fear of not making it financially. There are moments where I feel small and insignificant and overwhelmed. And it feels the same. The streets feel the same. The houses feel the same, the mountains look the same, the fears feel the same. And yet at the same time they don’t. I am different, WE are different….as a couple and as a family.
We are stronger and we are ready. Ready to tackle big things and big dreams. I know it’s going to be hard but I’m not afraid of it anymore. It’s not that I don’t see and feel the fears as they rise up as a hard lump in my throat. It’s just that we know what to do with that now and it no longer paralyzes us like it used to.
Speaking of fears I used to be terrified of shallow frying things. Cooking bacon was unnerving enough with the inevitable pops of hot fat landing on some exposed body part. I had mastered the deep fryer pretty well even in high school foods class since you could drop things in and leave them to do their thing without much recourse. But shallow frying I thought was the worst of both worlds. Not enough oil to drop things in a basket and walk away, too much for a quick saute and just enough to pop at you and give you a nice big burn.
When we moved to the south and realized if I was going to claim to have lived there I could not reasonably come home without knowing how to fry chicken and make biscuits so I set out to master shallow frying. Turns out the only real secrets you need to know are don’t get the oil scorching hot (just a smidge over medium heat on our stove) and make sure the stuff you put in to fry doesn’t have water on it.
I have made quite a few different eggplant parmesan recipes and the thing that I always had a beef with is that you go through frying all the eggplant to a beautiful crunch and then you cover it in sauce and put it in the oven which makes it soggy. I really loved how we assembled these as it kept the eggplant slices nice and crispy. The baked style does allow the eggplant to absorb more of those lovely flavors from the sauce though so try them both ways out and let me know which one is your favorite!
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large cans (28 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 large can (28 oz) plain tomato sauce
- ¾ tablespoon dried basil or italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large cans (28 oz) spaghetti sauce (I like Prego)
- 2 large (10 inch) eggplants
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal (panko is also a nice option here)
- 1 cup season italian bread crumbs
- Peanut Oil
- 2-4 cups shredded cheese
- basil leaves
- Slice the eggplant into slightly fat ¼" slices.You don't want to make eggplant chips but if they are too thick they won't fry through as well.
- Salt the eggplant slices on both sides well and place in a colander. Salting draws out the excess water in the eggplant and removes some of the bitterness. Allow to drain for 1-2 hours if possible, 30 minutes minimum.
- While the eggplant drains start your sauce.
- Saute the onions in the olive oil until they are translucent and aromatic. Add the garlic in the last moment (do not brown).
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning.
- Bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer on low as long as possible. I like to give mine 2-3 hours to fully meld the flavors and make the house smell amazing. 30 minutes minimum.
- Add ½ inch of peanut oil to a large thick bottomed frying pan. If you are crunched for time you can run 2 pans at the same time to speed up the frying.
- Bring oil to temperature over medium to medium high heat (my electric stovetop is just a smidge over medium for the perfect temp)
- Preheat your oven to warm and place a cookie sheet inside.
- Setup your breading station with eggplant, a dish of beaten eggs, and a dish of the cornmeal & italian breadcrumbs mixed together. Using a dish with sides for the breadcrumbs is easier than a plate.
- Dip the eggplant in egg, then breading and then fry until golden brown and crispy, turning once.
- Transfer cooked eggplant to cookie sheets in oven. Do not stack them.
- You can either serve these deconstructed (as shown in photos) or you can assemble them in a casserole dish in layers with sauce and cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for a more lasagna like experience.
- I prefer to serve them stacked like this with sauce and cheese layered and then broiled as it keeps the eggplant crispy.