Serves 4, with ample leftovers. Kept in a tightly sealed plastic container or on a plate covered tightly with plastic wrap, these should keep for about a week refrigerated.
One medium-size eggplant
Seasoned Italian bread crumbs
Good olive oil
A word before you begin: It’s always a good idea to read through a recipe a couple of times before you launch into things. That said, please don’t let the length of this recipe scare you away—it’s an easy dish to prepare! I tried to be as detailed as I could because for this dish, it’s all about preparation and process. Have all of your ingredients at hand and ready before you start, and give yourself ample time for working on this, because once you begin frying the eggplant you really need to remain at the stove until you’re finished. But trust me: the reward will be delicious!
Fill a pot with cold, salted water and set aside. (I find the plastic tub from my salad spinner is perfect for this.)
With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the eggplant. Using a sharp knife, trim off the ends. Using the same knife or a mandoline slicer, carefully slice the eggplant into large discs, approximately ¼ -inch thick, placing each slice immediately into the waiting tub of salted water.
Let the eggplant slices soak for about ten minutes. Drain the water and rinse the eggplant slices with cold water, then refill the tub with cold salted water and repeat the soaking process.
(Why go to all of this bother? Because you’ll notice the water from the first rinse, and even the second, will be a yucky brown. The salted water is drawing the bitterness out of the eggplant. Trust me.
Drain and rinse well, then pat the slices dry with paper towels.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl large enough to hold several eggplant slices.
Now set up your preparation area:
Using a breading pan, place about two cups of breadcrumbs and one cup Parmesan cheese in one of its sections; mix well with a fork. (If you don’t have a breading pan, use two baking sheets with sides—I use two old pizza pans. Don’t do anything with the other section or the second baking sheet or pizza pan yet; you will use it to hold the breaded slices.
Line a third baking sheet with paper towels. Set aside. (You’ll use this to drain the fried eggplant.)
Place the sliced eggplant, three to four slices at a time, in the egg wash and making sure to coat each side thoroughly.
Then, one at a time, place an egg-washed slice of eggplant in the crumb-and-cheese mixture, pressing firmly enough to ensure a good, even coat of crumbs on each side. Set the breaded eggplant slice on the extra pan you have set aside. Continue this process until all of the slices have been breaded.
Over medium heat, warm a large sauté pan for about 30 seconds, then add enough good quality olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, place several eggplant slices in the pan, taking care not to crowd them. Brown for about five minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown, then turn them over and brown the other side. When the first batch is complete, remove from the pan and drain on the large, paper-towel-lined pan you had set aside. Then place a layer of paper towels on top of the fried eggplant slices, ready to receive the next fried batch. (You’ll end up with paper towels between each layer of eggplant.)
Complete this process until all of the eggplant has been fried. Note that after about two fryings, you’ll need to carefully drain the hot oil from the pan and replenish it with fresh oil, repeating this process as needed. (An empty coffee can works great for this.) You don’t want the oil to get black and smoky; this will burn the eggplant and ruin the taste. What you are looking for is nicely golden-brown slices.
Serve warm, or prepare ahead and refrigerate. These are delicious cold; I’ve never tried to reheat them. You can eat them plain. (I dare you to have enough left over to serve guests!) Although I’ve never felt the urge to reheat them, John suggests doing so and serving them with a warm marinara dipping sauce.)
Incidentally, this is also a great first-step in making Eggplant Parmesan—something that I’ve never attempted, for some inexplicable reason. As someone who is half-Sicilian and thinks her Italian cooking skills are pretty sharp, I’m embarrassed to admit this to you. Now I’ll have to hunt for a good recipe. If you have a great recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that you’d like to share, please post it in the comment section following this recipe!