Panko-Coated Fried Eggplant

For last week’s dinner party, I needed to find a vegetarian entree that would be filling and delicious. I hate to say it, but that has never been an easy task for me. Pasta is an option, but it’s never filling enough to have a true “portion,” and I always crash and feel starving again after an hour.

Mike, being the former vegetarian and uber-talented food-idea-man that he is, came up with fried eggplant as a hearty, tasty meat alternative for dinner with Becca and Kiki. It’s simple, but looks fancy, and it really is great!

Whenever you “bread” anything, be it chicken or eggplant, you’ should set up a “dredge/egg wash/bread” station. The first layer is flour–we used whole wheat, since it was all we had. Your egg wash will form a glue when added over the flour. The general rule of thumb is 1 tsp of water per egg yolk. As for the bread crumbs, I’m a huge fan of panko (Japanese bread crumbs), which you can sometimes find with other bread crumbs and sometimes in the Asian section.

(You’ll have to forgive me that all of these pictures were taken at night, so the light is a little off.)

You should use a fair amount of oil–maybe 1/2 inch deep in the pan? You want it to be pretty hot when you fry the eggplants so they don’t get soggy; I set my gas stove to one notch above medium. As always, be very careful around the hot oil!

Enough little tips. Time for some cooking!

Panko-Coated Fried Eggplant
Serves 6-8

2 eggplants, sliced into 1-inch wide medallions
1 cup flour, any kind
4 egg yolks
4 tsp water
2 cups panko
Olive oil (a lot)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paper towels (or plain brown paper bag)

Prepare your breading station by pouring the flour and panko into separate dishes. Quickly whisk the egg yolks and water in another dish. One by one, dredge each medallion of eggplant in the flour, brushing off as much flour as you can. Quickly dip the eggplant in the egg wash, then into the bread crumbs. Thoroughly coat the eggplant in crumbs by pressing the crumbs on. Set aside until you’ve finished all of the medallions.

Lay out a few layers of paper towels next to the stove.

Fill a large saute pan with enough oil to be about 1/2-inch deep. Heat over medium-high until shimmering. VERY GENTLY place each medallion in the oil; you should be able to fit about 4. Don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t fry correctly. The oil should be bubbling moderately vigorously, but not spattering out of the pan–adjust heat as necessary. Fry first side for about 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden-brown, then very gently flip and fry for another 3-4 minutes.

When you remove each medallion, immediately place it on the paper towels and quickly sprinkle salt and pepper on top. The hot oil will suck up the salt and make these really delicious. When somewhat cooled (after about 2 minutes), these are ready to serve!

*Note that with 2 eggplants, this turns into a good 4 batches in the pan, so you might want to serve and eat the first set, then finish cooking them after dinner.

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