I love frying eggplant because it gives it a wonderfully crispy crust while making the interior incredibly soft and creamy. My favorite way to finish it is with a bright tomato topping and herbed goat cheese to round out the dish.
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 fresh sage leaves
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1¼ cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, softened
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cups fresh breadcrumbs or panko
- 1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
- 1 cup canola oil
1. Pull the leaves from the thyme and rosemary, mince them with the sage, then mash them into the cheeses with 1/4 teaspoon salt and set aside.
2. Put the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a nonstick skillet, then turn the heat to low and bring it up nice and slow, which will keep the garlic from getting too brown and bitter. It's ready when it smells like garlic bread; the parsley will be a deep, dark green.
3. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and break it up with your spoon as best you can; at first it won't want to cooperate, but gradually it will start to melt. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, until it's broken down and smells nicely caramelized. Set it aside.
4. Combine the flour with the last 1/2 teaspoon salt, and put the mixture in a shallow bowl. Beat the eggs with the water, and put them in another shallow bowl. Put the breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl.
5. Trim the ends from the eggplant, and cut it into roughly 3/4-inch slices. Line a plate with paper towels, and put the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Test the oil by dropping in a couple breadcrumbs: it's ready when they sizzle as soon as they hit the pan, but too hot if they immediately brown.
6. Working in batches of four or five slices, dredge the eggplant first in the flour, patting off any excess; then in the eggs; and finally in the breadcrumbs, gently patting them into an even crust that clings to each piece.
7. Add the slices to the pan in batches, making sure they're not too crowded. Fry, flipping occasionally, until both sides get crispy and brown and the eggplant is creamy at the center, 5-6 minutes total. Move to the lined plate to drain any excess oil, and continue with the remaining slices of eggplant until you've cooked them all.
8. When the fried eggplant has cooled slightly, smear each slice with a thin layer of tomato mixture, then dollop the herbed cheese on top. Sprinkle generously with parsley before serving, and eat the eggplant while it's warm.