Crispy Fried Eggplant

Once upon a time, my mom came for a visit.  She swooped in the door with a plate wrapped in paper towel and said, “you have to try this…it’s like eating eggplant chips!” They weren’t even warm, but they were crisp and flavorful.  Very tasty! So, it was time to experiment a crispy fried eggplant recipe.  This fried eggplant is great to just munch on by itself, but it also pairs perfectly with the simple tomato basil sauce in an upcoming post.

Eggplant is a vegetable that has bragging rights for being near the top of the list of “Brain Foods” due to it’s fiber content, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant properties.  It is a flavorful and versatile food.  Though there are many varieties, the typical eggplant found in America is pear-shaped and purple in color.  Eggplant should be firm and the skin smooth and shiny without scars or discoloration.  They are very perishable, so plan on using within a few days of purchase.  Do not clean or cut prior to storing.  Eggplant can be eaten with or without the skin, which can sometimes be bitter.  To prepare eggplant for use, cut it with a stainless steel knife and sweat the liquid out of the vegetable by placing it on paper towel and sprinkling it with salt.  Let sit for about 30 minutes and then dab the excess liquid off with another paper towel.  If you need to, you can rinse to remove the rest of the salt.  For this recipe, I leave the salt.

 

There are so many options for the breading.  To keep this recipe simple, store bought crumbs are the easiest though they do have a higher sodium and sugar (corn syrup) content.  A benefit of store bought crumbs is that they can be purchased with Italian seasoning.  If you don’t have bread crumbs on hand, you can make your own with bread, crackers or even cereal.  Just pulse in a food processor or spice grinder.  Add Italian seasoning and you have seasoned breadcrumbs with control of the ingredients.  If you do not have pre-mixed Italian Seasoning, you can make it by blending dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. Some also include black pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes.  For a healthier version of store bought breadcrumbs that have less additives and cook nice and crisp, use Panko breadcrumbs.  For this recipe, I add grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs.

 

Crispy Fried Eggplant

1 Medium Eggplant with skin on, thinly sliced and sweated
1-2+ T Course ground Kosher Salt or Sea Salt (regular table salt will work)
1 1/2 – 2 C Seasoned Breadcrumbs
Binder for breading (this can be a couple eggs or egg whites beaten with a liquid added such as water or milk, or just milk)
1/4 C Grated Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil* (to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/4 in)
*Higher quality, extra virgin olive oils have a higher smoke point or can be heated higher without burning.  I use my favorite oil from a local shop, The Olive Twist (www.theolivetwist.com).
Because this is what I would consider a lightly breaded recipe, I don’t use the typical three-step dredging process.  Set-up your area like a little assembly line: frying pan with heated olive oil, bowl of seasoned bread crumbs and cheese mixture, bowl of egg/milk, sliced eggplant already sweated.  I try to use the wet hand – dry hand method, but typically goof up and use the wrong hand so I end up with fingers that look like Sasquatch fingers.  Dip the eggplant in the liquid and then transfer to the breadcrumbs.  Cover completely with breadcrumbs by flipping the piece over.  Place gently in the heated oil.  Because these are so very thinly sliced, they do not take long to cook.  Fry a few minutes on each side until a golden brown.
Remove from the pan and place on paper towel to remove excess oil.  Remember to constantly change the paper towel to keep the food from reabsorbing the oil and becoming soggy.  Sprinkle with salt.  This is one of those things that are lucky if they make it to a plate because I eat them as quickly as they come out of the pan! Keep warm on a baking sheet in a low temperature oven.

Serve with your favorite pasta topped with marinara for a perfect Eggplant Parmesan. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese or top with melted mozzarella.

 

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