On our first trip to Italy, we found out what a true Italian Eggplant Parmesan was. I had grow up in a very Italian family, but it's funny how our food is sometimes adapted to our ideas of what Italian food really is. In Italy they do not use egg and breading on their eggplant before they fry the slices. We usually use bread crumb or my favorite, flour and egg. They believe all those extra ingredients hide the true flavor of the eggplant when all you are really looking for is the sweet taste of the beautiful eggplant with a bit of sauce and cheese. Makes total sense!! You just have to be sure to prepare the eggplant correctly because eggplant can be bitter. Especially, if it is not in season. For eggplant that is July though October. It is also a sponge and will soak up practically all of the oil that you put in the pan. That's not good either. So, basically, you have some choices to make. First, you can use a coating like egg and flour or breadcrumb. this provides a barrier to the eggplant so the oil is not sucked in by that sponge. You can lightly brush the slices with olive oil and grill or roast them in your oven. Lastly, you can soak slices in a big pot of salted water for about an hour. Then you must lay them on paper towels to dry. This is the usual method of preparation in Italy. Soaked, then fried. It is very easy, just takes a little more time to prep. This is how I will prepare mine today. The traditional Italian Eggplant Parmesan......
TRADITIONAL EGGPLANT PARMESAN
3 OR 4 MEDIUM SIZED EGGPLANTS PREPARED MARINARA SAUCE 1 WHOLE FRESH MOZZARELLA PARMESAN CHEESE OIL FOR FRYING (OLIVE OIL AND VEGETABLE OIL) KOSHER SALT
First, you have to decide if you like the skin on or off. It is totally a taste preference. I will be taking it off but totally your choice. Then I will slice them in about 1/2" thick slices.
Put them in a big pot with cool water making sure they are covered with water salted with about 1/4 cup kosher salt. Let it sit in the water for a good hour to an hour and a half. Then remove and put on paper towels and pat, almost squeeze, as much water out as possible. Let sit to dry.
Now heat oil in a frying pan. I like to use a combination of olive oil and vegetable oil. I find that a half and half combination works well. Put enough in your pan to come up about an inch. When oil is hot throw in some slices. Fry on each side about 3 minutes or until golden browned and beautiful.
They don't always make it into the pan after that because they are sooo good plain. But....now all you have to do is grab sauce, mozzarella and cheese, and build it. Start with sauce on the bottom. Then a layer of eggplant...mozzarella and repeat. Remember to not go crazy on the sauce and cheese, just a thin layer of both. You don't want to hide that fantastic sweet eggplant that you just put so much time into.
Finish it off with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.