Today’s sandwich is the “eggplant parmesan” grilled cheese. It combines breaded, fried eggplant slices, tangy tomato sauce, three kinds of cheese on crusty Italian bread.
Notes: It all started with a soda. An old friend gave me a liter of Foxon Park white birch, sweetened with real sugar and lightly effervescent. This small batch soft drink, which has been produced in East Haven, Connecticut for the last eighty years, is the ideal beverage pairing for pizza, pasta, anything red sauce based and melty, and it got me thinking. I began building a crazy decadent sandwich in my mind. Hearty, salty, hot and fried. A sandwich for the last days of winter.
“Eggplant Parmesan” Grilled Cheese
Makes 2 sandwiches
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
- Kosher salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten in a shallow bowl
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup all purpose-flour, combined with breadcrumbs in a second shallow bowl
- Olive oil
- Your favorite tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup freshly grated extra-sharp provolone
- 1 fist-sized ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Basil leaves
- Crusty bread
Layer and salt eggplant slices in a colander in the sink; use heavy plates to press the eggplant to drain, about two hours. Rinse off salt and pat the slices dry. Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat, and begin coating the eggplant, first in egg, then in the flour/breadcrumb mixture. When the oil is hot, fry eggplant until golden brown, about three minutes a side; drain on brown paper bag or paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a glass baking dish, spread half the tomato sauce, layer half the eggplant, half the grated cheeses, and repeat – sauce, eggplant – remainder of the grated cheese, and half the mozzarella slices. Bake for 20-25 minutes; remove from oven and allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes.
Build a sandwich with eggplant, mozzarella, and basil leaves; melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Grill until the bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, about five minutes a side.