Eggplant Parmigiana (or Eggplant Parmesan, depending on who you ask) has always been one of my favorite “comfort” dishes. I don’t know why, but somewhere in the veggies and cheese and sauce there is perfection. The issue is that most times when I get it, it is very sub-par. It’s either too saucy (I’m not a fan of it swimming) or soggy (hate that, too) or something else along those lines. See, this doesn’t look soggy or saucy does it?
So, with that being said I decided to try my hand at making my own version of the classic dish, and as usual, I added in a few twists. The biggest change, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, is the addition of Tofu along with the eggplant. I had been thinking, if eggplant has the same mouth-feel as “fat,” perhaps adding something “meaty” like portobello or tofu would work with it to give it a “meaty” feel.
I’d like to posit, then, that eggplants are the vegetal version of animal fat. The feel of a piece of cooked eggplant in your mouth is reminiscent of that luscious piece of fat on your pork chop or rib-eye, the one you know you should really cut away, but, oh, it’s just a small piece, just this once, nobody’s really looking anyway, and you’ll make sure you exercise tomorrow. Eggplant is the pork belly, the foie gras, the marrow, the toro of the plant kingdom.
Because I still had some extra-firm tofu leftover from a previous Chinese dish (once I get it perfected I’ll share it), I figured we’d go the Tofu route. Ready to get cooking?
- 1.5 – 2 lb Roma Tomatoes (skinned and seeded)
- 2 Tbs Fresh Basil
- 2 Tbs Fresh Chives
- 1 Tbs Fresh Oregano
- 1 tsp Fresh Thyme
- 2 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
- Pinch of Sugar
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- Eggplant (medium sized)
- 12oz Extra Firm Tofu
- 1/2 c Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 c White Flour
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 2 Eggs (blended well with 1 Tbs water)
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 5 Tbs grated Pecorino Cheese (I used Sheep’s milk Pecorino Sardo, but Parmesan would work, too)
- 4 oz shredded Goat Gouda or other cheese (Mozzarella would work here, just less flavorful)
- 1/2 c Light Olive Oil (for frying)
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
About an hour before cooking:
- Skin eggplant and slice into about 1/4″ slices (I cut mine in half so they were semi-circles, not required).
- Place eggplant slices on a rack over a pan, then liberally sprinkle with salt on both sides. Lay eggplant on the rack and allow to “sweat” for about 30 minutes.
- Take out your block of Tofu, wrap it in a towel or a bunch of paper towels and set it in a colander. Place something heavy on top to drain out some of the water for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Now then, while all that is draining and sweating (doesn’t that sound tasty?) we can go ahead and make the sauce:
- Place your tomatoes, sugar, fresh herbs (Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Chives) and garlic together in a food processor and blend to your desired consistency (I like it a bit chunky, but that’s just met).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside (we don’t need to pre-cook it, we’ll let it cook in the oven. I think it gives it a fresher taste).
Onto the breading and frying…
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Gather three wide bowls or pie pans. In one place breadcrumbs, 2 Tbs of your grated cheese, dried oregano and a pinch of both salt and pepper.
- In another pan/bowl, place flour and baking powder.
- In the final pan/bowl, place your beaten eggs and water.
- Take your tofu and slice into 1/4″ slices. Take the slices and one at a time place them in the flour, then tap the excess off. Move the slice to the egg mixture, then when coated, place it in the bread crumbs.
- When all the tofu has been dipped, you can repeat the process with the eggplant, but make sure to first wash the eggplant off (we need all the salt and “sweat” off of it).
- Heat your oil in a pan over medium heat. When hot, start frying your tofu pieces until golden brown (should be about 2 – 3 min a piece, turn over mid-way) and remove from the oil to a rack or plate covered in paper to drain off the oil. Season with salt if needed.
- When the tofu is finished, fry the eggplant the same way as the tofu, be sure not to burn any pieces.
- Grab a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and spray it with some non-stick spray (something like Pam). Cover the bottom of the dish with about 1/3 of the sauce.
- Layer all your tofu along the bottom of the dish, top with another 1/3 of the sauce followed by 1/2 of your shredded cheese.
- Now place your eggplant on top of the other layers, placing the last 1/3 of your sauce on top, followed by the other 1/2 of your shredded cheese, finishing with the last 3 Tbs of grated cheese.
- Place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes, until the cheese is all melted and delicious looking.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then eat! Good stuff… it should look something like this:
It doesn’t taste like tofu… it resembles (in my mind) a meat you can’t quite put your finger on. Now, the reason for this recipe is that Jess is a bit lactose intolerant, but can handle goat/sheep cheese just fine, so I thought I’d come up with a neat recipe to use some Tofu I had as well as having a good “comforting” feel to it.
If anyone out there tackles this dish, please let me know what you think (also, if I missed something, just shout)!