Crispy Eggplant Parm For My Two Kids

Crispy Roasted Eggplant Parm on the left and Crispy Oven “Fried” Eggplant Parm on the right- both sitting on a bed of dressed arugula and surrounded by Crispy Bread Crumbs, Italian Salsa and Marinara Sauce.

May 17, 2021.  Dear Kids– We are a house divided, at least as far as you kids go, when it comes to Eggplant Parm- one of you likes it roasted and the other breaded and fried.  So what’s a good Dad (and I am a good Dad, just ask me) to do, but give you a recipe for both!

There are not only two recipes here, but both recipes show you how to keep your eggplant nice and crispy so there’s a pleasing crunch in every bite.  It’s just very sad when a recipe gives you tasty, crispy food, only to take away that hard earned crisp with a soggy sauce.  Crackling wings go soft drowned in Buffalo sauce; crunchy shrimp loses its crisp once doused in bang bang sauce; crusted chicken gets mushy when it’s overtaken by General Tso and his army of sauce; and all the crispy Parmesan (or Parmigiana, if you want to be fancy) cutlets (eggplant, chicken, veal, etc) wilt under the weight of marinara sauce- very sad indeed!  But, have no fear, your parm’s crispy crunch will prevail in this recipe!

In case you were wondering, the way you keep the crunch alive in this recipe is to add a generous topping of crispy bread crumbs over the roasted eggplant parm right before serving and to protect the oven fried eggplant with a layer of cheese, thanks to a technique learned from Cook’s Illustrated, so the sauce does not seep into and steal the crisp of the breaded eggplant.  

One last surprise- in addition to all that crisp saving technology in the recipe, there’s a nice punch of freshness and brightness from an innovative Italian Tomato Salsa topping as well!

PS. I know it may be a bit confusing to have one recipe for two dishes, but it’s also a bit confusing to raise two kids who aren’t afraid to tell you what they want- “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes, plus 15 more minutes for Oven Fried*

Cook Time:  20-30 minutes*

Servings: 4-6

*  Longer if you make your own sauce.

GET YOUR STUFF OUT

  • 2 medium eggplants, ends trimmed and skin on and cut into 1/2 inch rounds for roasted or skinned and cut into 1/3 inch rounds for oven fried
  • 1-2 tablespoon kosher salt, optional
  • 1-2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • canola oil, as needed, for baking sheet

Roasted Option- Crispy Bread Crumbs

  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Zest from 1 lemon

Oven Fried Option- Crispy Breading

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups panko bread crumbs
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning, optional
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Italian Salsa

  • 1 cup diced tomatoes- multi colored, grape tomatoes will make it look better
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 8-10 basil leaves, sliced thinly 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

COOK AND PLAY

Take a walk on the WIlde side and play “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde an 80s throwback to keep you kids moving while you make your Parm.  Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!

  1. Salt That Eggplant, Optional, but Recommended. Place eggplant rounds on a large sheet pan and toss with soy sauce or, if you want to draw draw moisture out and tenderize the eggplant, don’t toss eggplant in soy sauce until after you toss eggplant with salt, let sit 45 minutes and wipe salty moisture off eggplant with a cloth or paper kitchen towel. If salting, continue to prep remaining recipe while the eggplant sits. Set up middle and top rack in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Roasted Option- Crispy Bread Crumbs.  Move on to Step 3 if you like your eggplant breaded and oven fried, but if you prefer your eggplant roasted, preheat a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and then add a mix of bread crumbs, salt and pepper and, if using, Italian Seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir it all up a few times until crumbs are nicely browned and crispy.  Let cool for several minutes, off heat, then stir in parmesan and lemon zest.  Set aside and continue with Steps 4, 5 and 6.  You could also make these crispy bread crumbs while the eggplant is roasting in Step 5- up to you.  
  3. Oven Fried Option- Crispy Breading.  To oven fry eggplant, add flour to a bowl, eggs to another bow (stirring up eggs until well mixed) and bread crumbs mixed with salt and pepper and, if using, Italian Seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder, to a third bowl.  Bread eggplant rounds by coating in flour (tap off excess flour into bowl before moving on to egg); then dipping in egg (let any excess egg drip back into egg bowl); and finally tossing in bread crumb mix (use your hands as needed to press on more crumbs to fully coat rounds). Repeat until all rounds are breaded.   Set aside and continue with Steps 4, 5 and 7.
  4. Italian Salsa.  Toss tomatoes, lemon juice, basil and oil in medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
  5. Roast/Oven Fry Eggplant.  Lightly coat a large sheet pan with oil.  Place eggplant rounds in one layer on pan and roast or oven fry, turning each round after about 10 minutes, until nicely browned on both sides, about 20 minutes total.  Remove sheet pan from oven and turn oven broiler to high.  PS- for even crispier breaded eggplant, instead of oven frying, feel free to pan fry the eggplant in a skillet with about a 1/4 inch layer of canola oil.
  6. Build The Crispy Roasted Eggplant Parm.  Top each roasted eggplant round with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and a few tablespoons of mozzarella.  Return to top rack of oven, watching carefully, until cheese starts to bubble and brown.  If using, place a serving of pasta or arugula on each serving plate. Place 3-4 rounds of eggplant on each serving plate and top each round with salsa before topping everything with a good amount of Crispy Bread Crumbs. Serve more Crispy Bread Crumbs and warmed marinara sauce on the side if you like.  Leftover Crispy Bread Crumbs can be refrigerator for several days or frozen for several months.  
  7. Build The Crispy Oven Fried Eggplant Parm.  Warm tomato sauce in a medium saucepan.  Cover each breaded eggplant round with a few tablespoons of cheese (the idea is to “protect” the breading with the cheese, so when the tomato sauce is added on top of the cheese, the sauce won’t get the breading soggy) and return tray to top rack of oven, watching carefully, until cheese starts to bubble and brown.  If using, place a serving of pasta or arugula on each serving plate. Place 3-4 eggplant rounds on each serving plate and top with a few tablespoons of warmed sauce and then a few tablespoons of Italian salsa.  Pass more tomato sauce on the side.   
Roasted- all that brown is flavor!
Oven Fried- all that brown is also flavor. Do you see a theme here?

THE LECTURE

To Skin or Not to Skin?   That is the question- along with the other question about salt that follows, so they are the questions.   Just a few of the questions you’ll have to answer now that you’re out on your own kids.  As for me, I cooked the eggplant with skin on and skin off and here’s what I found- the skin wasn’t at all tough, whether oven fried or baked; the breadcrumbs did not adhere as well to the skin when oven fried; and the roasted eggplant without skin didn’t hold it’s shape as well.  So to summarize- I prefer skin off when breading for a better breading experience and skin on when roasting for a better flipping and serving experience.

To Salt or Not to Salt?  As to whether you need to salt and wait for the salt to draw out moisture and tenderize the eggplant a bit, here’s what I found when cooking both salted and unsalted eggplant.  The roasted eggplant was just as tender and the flavor just as concentrated whether it was salted of not. On the other hand, the oven fried eggplant that was salted cooked to a better texture and flavor than the oven friend eggplant that was not salted, but still not so much that you couldn’t skip salting if you didn’t have the time or patience for such.  If you don’t believe me, and you often don’t, I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself.    

I salted some of the eggplant on a rack to see if a racked was needed to keep the eggplant from sitting in a puddle of water- it really wasn’t because not a large amount of water (zee enemee of flavour!) was drawn out when salted,

Veganize It.  Just use your favorite, vegan cheese substitute for parmesan and mozzarella and bread the eggplant for Oven Frying with the beer batter crumb breading from Buffalo City Chicken or the Fried Green Tomato Salad

Keywords: eggplant, Italian, comfort food, vegetarian, vegan option, roasting, oven frying, shallow frying

© 2021 All rights reserved.  Dad’s Dinner Diary

2 thoughts on “Crispy Eggplant Parm For My Two Kids

  1. One of your best platings. You get a perfect score on presentation. You are on to the next. Just be a pain, but the sauce is not soggy rather saucing causes the crunchy item to become soggy. 😉 Totally agree and will be making the roasted version

    Liked by 1 person

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