One of the most popular eggplant dishes in America -- understandably
3 cups olive oil for deep-frying
1 1/4 pound eggplant
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional to taste
1/2 cup flour
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs (not too fine)
6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus thinly shaved slices of cheese for garnish
1 tablespoon rubbed sage (dry) plus fresh sage leaves for garnish
8 canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
dash of grated nutmeg
1. Put olive oil in a large, heavy pan over moderate heat. Bring to 365 degrees.
2. Cut 1/2 inch off eggplant at both ends. Cut two long sides to remove the bulge, turning eggplant into a fairly regular rectangular block. Cut off skin on all sides. Reserve all cuttings for another use. Slice the rectangular block lengthwise into 4 long cutlets, each about 1/2 inch thick.
3. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife on a counter, remove the peel, and sprinkle the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub the garlic well against the eggplant slices, then discard.
4. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Coat the eggplant slices with the flour. Dip each slice in the eggs. Mix together the bread crumbs, the 6 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the rubbed sage. Coat the eggplant slices with the bread-crumb mixture.
5. When oil has reached 365 degrees, immerse eggplant slices, 2 at a time. (Try to keep temperature constant.) Cook for 3 minutes, or until eggplant is golden brown outside, soft inside. Drain and dab on paper towels while the other 2 slices are cooking. Remove them when done, drain, and dab.
6. Prepare sauce: Squeeze the juice from the canned tomatoes, then place in blender, along with the capers. Purée. Pour into small bowl, whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
7. Pour the sauce onto 4 dinner plates, distributing evenly. Top with eggplant cutlets. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Immediately top each hot cutlet with thinly shaved slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.
One of the most popular eggplant dishes in America is eggplant parmigiana, which has nothing to do with Parma. It also has nothing to do with good culinary logic: why deep-fry something, only to bury it in a wet, tomato-sauce casserole? We prefer the following variation -- long, deep-fried eggplant slices, served on top of a light sauce -- which preserves the crispness of the deep-frying. It also brings Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the picture, restoring some sense to the name eggplant parmigiana. Serves 4