Total time:50 minutes
I love eggplant with parmesan. But as someone who thinks almost everything on bread is better, I really yearn for eggplant parmesan sandwiches. Take me to an Italian deli or complementary store and that’s the first thing I’ll look for on the menu.
Now I know I can satisfy those cravings at home with these Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches. They are cheeky, cheesy and dirty at their best – my kind of comfort. And for those who are interested in small recipes, this one is designed for two people.
I started with the free base from the no-roast eggplant parmesan recipe I shared a few years ago, the no-roast part. The oven roaster is ideal for turning rubbery eggplant slices into silky goodness in no time and with minimal effort. Unlike the casserole, where I top the dish with a crispy layer of breadcrumbs, I thought I might miss the breaded eggplant here. I decided to see if I could do this in a more simplified format without going back to the frying pan and the awful multi-step dredging process (often flour, egg, breadcrumbs).
This recipe has everything you want in eggplant parma, minus frying.
The answer was yes. Turns out you can get a pretty good semblance of pan frying by toasting breaded eggplant slices on a well-oiled baking sheet. Plus, you can make it all in one go, as the pan easily holds one sliced eggplant, the perfect amount for two sandwiches. Please don’t shy away from the amount of oil I recommend for a frying pan. It is extremely important to prevent the eggplants from sticking together, as they hardly brown – you will see them bubbling, resulting in a beautiful golden crust. Take comfort in the fact that it won’t all be consumed (and that it’s probably a casual dinner!).
I also realized that, at least for this dish, you don’t need to coat the eggplants with multiple ingredients, as they come out of the oven after the first broiler period moist enough for the breadcrumbs mixture to stick. And don’t worry if your breading isn’t perfect. In the end, we put them in a roll with cheese and sauce, and while you get the taste and modest crunch of the crumbs, the appearance is moot.
How to use a broiler to fire up your home cooking
Another benefit of the mental gymnastics for practicing the roasting method in the oven was that it freed up the stove to quickly prepare the tomato sauce. Made with canned crushed tomatoes, one of my star dishes, it’s ready in about 10 minutes. It’s just the right balance of sweet and tart, rich and vibrant.
In accordance with the architecture of eggplant parmesan, I build a sandwich in layers: bread, sauce, eggplant, parmesan-reggiano, eggplant, sauce, parmigiano-reggiano, mozzarella, bread. I keep the brazier for the final trick, melting the mozzarella or provolone into a sticky blanket that pulls everything together.
Sandwiches with eggplant and parmesan
Want to spice up or modify a recipe to suit your needs? In the spirit of our Eat Hungry newsletter by Daniela Galarza, here are a few suggestions:
- Substitute your favorite non-dairy cheeses for a vegan recipe. Or give up cheese entirely.
- Use canned diced tomatoes for a fresher, more rustic sauce.
- Don’t want pancakes? It’s easy to miss. After 10 minutes on the first side, flip the eggplant and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the second side is browned and the slices are soft.
- Add the garlic bread component, brush the sliced buns with butter, then grill until golden brown. Rub half a clove of garlic all over the toasted bread. You will feel the difference. (See VARIATION below.)
- Put a little hot pickled pepper in a sandwich to add spice.
- Turn this into a mini eggplant parfum by layering the eggplant and sauce in a small baking dish. As with sandwiches, top with mozzarella and fry (assuming your dish is broiler safe) until melted and bubbling.
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- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
- 1 medium eggplant (1 lb), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- A pinch of fine salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- One (15 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
- Pinch of ground red pepper flakes (optional)
- Sugar to taste
- 2 sandwiches or buns, cut in half lengthwise and toasted
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided (may substitute for the vegan version)
- Two (1 ounce) slices of mozzarella or provolone (may be substituted with a vegan alternative)
Prepare the eggplant: Place a wire rack 4-6 inches from the broiler and preheat (use a high setting if you can). Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, spreading it evenly with a brush. Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, rubbing them against the skillet to make sure they are well coated in oil. Lightly season the eggplants with salt and pepper, turn over and repeat the same process, adding seasonings and rubbing them into the oil. If the pan and the bottom of the eggplant look dry, add a little more oil.
Roast for 8-10 minutes, flipping the sheet from front to back halfway through, until the eggplant is soft and lightly browned in places. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the eggplant to a plate. Brush the skillet with 2 more tablespoons of oil.
Prepare the Sauce: While the eggplant is cooking, make the sauce. In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat oil until shimmery. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes, if using, then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and takes on a strong odor, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt and sugar to taste, starting with a pinch, until you reach your desired flavor balance. Remove from heat and leave to assemble; you should have about 1 cup.
Back to the eggplants: Combine the Italian breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs in a large shallow dish, like a pie plate, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring until smooth. Dip each slice into the breadcrumbs mixture, pressing them against the eggplant so they stick. Flip once. You can put a little more on top, even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to stick – it will brown well and stay on after it’s toasted. As you work, shift the slices back to the baking sheet. Drizzle the eggplants with the remaining tablespoon of oil; if you run out, use a little more as needed.
Still over high heat, sauté the eggplant until rich, golden brown and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. The topping should also be a bit crunchy, though don’t expect it to be the same as pan-fried eggplant. Flip the slices and fry again until golden brown, 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a plate if you plan to use the assembly pan, as shown below.
Assemble the sandwiches: On a baking sheet or oven-friendly plate, spread 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom half of each roll. (Feel free to use less if you want your sandwich to be less savory. Any extra sauce is great for dipping or as a pizza topping.) Place a quarter of an eggplant on top of each sauce bun, 3-4 slices. Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano over each sandwich, then another layer with the remaining eggplant, another 1/4 cup of sauce and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut each slice of mozzarella or provolone in half and arrange the slices on top of the sandwiches, covering as much of the sauce as possible.
Place the opened sandwiches under the roaster for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from the oven and finish the sandwiches with the top halves of the buns. Cut in half and serve.
OPTION: Cut the rolls and brush the inside with olive oil. Grill over high heat, cut side up, until the bread is golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oven and rub the toasted surfaces with a clove of garlic. Then assemble the sandwiches as above.
The ingredients are too variable for meaningful analysis due to the amount of olive oil that can be used and ingested.
From Voraciously staff writer Becky Crystal.
Tested by Becky Crystal; questions by email email@example.com.
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