Crispy Baked Eggplant

Serves 6

Music Pairing: Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch with Pete Townshend & Rachel Fuller

2 black beauty eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

Sea salt, enough to “salt” the eggplant and to season the egg

Extra virgin olive oil, for coating the pan & drizzling

All purpose flour, about 1 cup (145 grams)

Panko breadcrumbs, about 2 1/2 cups (140 grams)

3 large eggs

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Thirty minutes before you’re ready to coat and bake the eggplant, you’ll need to “salt” them. This helps draw out excess water, as well as any bitterness from it. Using a regular dinner plate, create layers of the eggplant, liberally salting each layer before adding the next one. Cover the layered slices with another dinner plate or baking sheet, and rest a heavy object on top (a cast iron skillet is perfect, but I can also vouch for using a mega-dictionary).

Let the eggplant sit, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Remove the weight, and don’t worry about the brownish liquid that has collected on the slices—that was the goal. Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink. Run cold water over the slices, making sure to rinse off all of the salt. Lay the slices single-layer in a cloth towel. Roll the towel up, and set the eggplant aside to dry off for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475F (245C). Lightly drizzle two rimmed baking sheets with some of the olive oil. Place the flour and breadcrumbs each in separate shallow dishes (pie plates work very well).

Add the eggs, salt and pepper to a deep bowl, and beat with a fork to combine.

Coat each slice of eggplant as follows: gently press into the flour, flip and gently press again to coat both sides. Use a fork to dip the slice in the egg and lightly coat both sides, shaking off any excess egg. Dip the slice into the panko, using your fingers to brush some crumbs on top, and gently press the eggplant so the crumbs stick. Place the fully-coated slice on the prepared baking sheet.

About halfway through coating the slices, one tray will be full. Drizzle the slices lightly with some oil. Go ahead and bake those slices for 20 to 25 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden on both sides. You can coat the remaining slices, set them on the second tray and then pop them in the oven once the first tray comes out.**

Transfer the slices to a paper-towel lined plate for 1 to 2 minutes to absorb any excess oil. Serve hot, warm or even at room temperature. Leftovers may be stored in a covered container and heated in a 350F oven for 10 minutes.

**Really, I do it this way for efficiency, plus it allows the first tray to cool a bit, so the kids can dig in without burning their mouths once I bring them to the table. You can certainly coat them all at once, and bake both trays, just keep an eye on them, as you may need to alternate the pans in addition to turning each slice halfway through the baking time.

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