Number 9’s Quick & Dirty Dinners: Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich
Welcome to the food feature on Number 9. If you’re slavishly devoted to recipes, you’re about to step out of your comfort zone: real cooking is making do with what you have, so these recipes are always approximate. If I say “one onion” but you have only half left in the fridge, use that. It’ll be fine. Like more garlic? Add more. Don’t like eggplant? Leave it out. These recipes are like pretty photos of other people’s houses… inspiration, not gospel. Further to that philosophy, Quick & Dirty Dinners isn’t about fancy four course meals - it’s about real food, real grocery bills, and real life, so don’t be surprised if you see some prepared ingredients or leftovers being mixed in here. It’s about eating quickly and cheaply, but above all, eating well.
I made eggplant parmigiana on the weekend, the recipe for which I will not share here since it is definitely not quick… breading and pan frying enough eggplants for a thickly layered tray of parm takes a very long time, and the home-made sauce, meat and cheese required make the recipe a serious commitment.
However, a parm sandwich can be a lot simpler to make. I saved two big fat slices of fried eggplant for these, so if you happen to make an eggplant parmigiana you may want to do the same. Here’s how you can make a delicious sandwich like this one relatively easily.
If you want to fry the eggplant as shown in the sandwich above, one eggplant will be beyond plenty. In fact, if you just want to make a couple of sandwiches, cut some nice thick slices lengthwise through the center of the eggplant, and keep the rest of the eggplant for some other recipe. At this point, you’ll want to salt the slices lightly, and set them aside, pressed between paper towels. Basically the idea is to squeeze out the bitterness and water contained in the eggplant. You can let this sit as long as overnight, or as little as a few minutes, the longer the better.
For battered fried eggplant, you’ll need:
- breadcrumbs (I used a mixture of Panko and traditional breadcrumbs)
- one egg
- oil (I use olive oil, but grapeseed is best, with vegetable oil coming in next)
Combine the egg and some milk in bowl, as though you’re making an omelette. Put a few spoonfuls of flour on one plate, and a few spoonfuls of breadcrumbs on another. Take the salted, squeezed eggplant slices, and coat them in flour. I like to let mine sit for a few minutes, then coat them in flour again. Double flouring will make a huge difference for ANYTHING you batter, and I swear by it, but it’s not necessary.
At this point, you’ll want to make sure that your oil is heating up nicely in the pan. I like to put about a half inch of oil in the pan, enough that the eggplant will float when placed in it. Take the floured eggplant, coat it in egg, then dip it in the breadcrumbs, and drop it in the oil. To make sure your oil is hot enough, you can do a little test with some of the breadcrumby batter from your fingers before putting in the eggplant. If it sizzles and spits as soon as it hits the oil, you’re ready.
Once golden on one side, flip your eggplant slice in the pan. Once both sides are golden, you’ll want to take it out of the oil and drain it on a piece of paper towel. Fry all your slices this way.
Too complicated? I don’t blame you. To make this even easier, skip the battering, and simply drop the slices of salted, drained eggplant directly in the hot oil. The eggplant will still be delicious, just not breaded.
To build the sandwich, you’ll need:
- fried eggplant slices
- tomato sauce (home made or store bought)
- mozzarella cheese
- bread, preferably a nice ciabatta
The sandwich assembling is extremely simple: slice the long ciabatta in half, add the eggplant, a healthy helping of tomato sauce, and a few generous slices of mozza. Heat and eat. Deeelish.