The crispy, Panko-coated eggplant slices are so good, I could eat a whole plate of just those. But it doesn't hurt to throw on some mozzarella, tomatoes, peppadews, and basil, and sandwich the whole thing in a ciabatta roll. I was telling Joe just that when he asked, sort of absent-mindedly, "Is it crispy?" I bit into one, and the loud crunch got his attention. Then he ended up pilfering some eggplant slices.
The recipe is a bit of a production, but I think you can easily streamline it without affecting the quality. Skip the whole eggplant-salting thing for starters. This is a graffiti eggplant, and it not only looks cool, but it's smaller than your typical Italian eggplant and not as bitter or full of seeds; hence, no need to salt and drain. One of these made about a quarter of the recipe, which was a perfect amount for us. And I made those oven-roasted tomatoes (they're lost between layers in the photo, in case you were wondering), and they were good but I don't think worth the trouble again. A spoon of marinara will do it for me next time.
You also don't need the whole inch of oil in the skillet, or the frying thermometer. We're not making bone-in fried chicken here, so drop a crumb of panko in the oil -- if it doesn't do much, the oil's not hot enough, and if it starts to bubble up it's hot enough. I cooked them by color rather than time, flipping and removing them when they were golden brown. I hate spongy, al dente eggplant, but these were meltingly soft. A bit of a production, yes, but also a very satisfying lunch.
This post was featured on Yummly's 10 Egg-cellent Eggplant Recipes.
I also wanted to thank Dawn at DJ's Sugar Shack for passing on to me the Versatile Blogger award and Anuja of Simple Baking for the Liebster Blog award. Since I've received the Versatile Blogger award in the past, you don't need to read all about me again or the blogs I recommend. But if you'd like to anyway, click here. And definitely visit Dawn's and Anuja's great blogs!
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches
From Sandwich King
Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained of their liquid
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into ½-inch rounds (you'll need at least 8 rounds)
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour, for dredging
4 large eggs, beaten
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
4 soft brioche buns (I used ciabatta rolls, but use whatever you can find or bake)
1 pound burrata cheese (I used fresh mozzarella)
½ cup pickled cherry peppers, sliced ¼-inch thick
16 leaves fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner and another baking sheet with a wire rack.
For the eggplant: In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar and some salt. Evenly place the tomatoes on the lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until slightly caramelized and dried out a bit, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
Set the eggplant slices on the wire rack (if you don't have a rack you can use a colander set in the sink). Sprinkle salt on each side of the eggplant and let the salt do the work for 15 to 30 minutes.
Once the salt has released moisture from the eggplant, pat the slices dry with paper towels. Then sprinkle each side of the eggplant with pepper.
Set up a standard breading station with the flour in one shallow dish, the eggs in another and the panko mixed with the Parmesan in a third dish. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, shake off any excess, dip in the egg, let any excess drip off and then coat in the panko. Set aside on the wire rack and repeat.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1-inch vegetable oil to 350°.
Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes a side. Using a pair of tongs, transfer back to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. Make sure to season the eggplant as it comes out of the oil.
For the sandwich build: Butter and griddle both sides of the buns until golden and crispy (you can toast the buns as well). Tear the burrata over the bottom buns, then add 2 hot eggplant slices, some roasted tomatoes, a few pickled cherry peppers and some fresh basil leaves on each bun.