This is a gluten-free version of the classic Italian dish Eggplant Parmesan, or Melanzane alla Parmigiana. This recipe is 100% vegetarian and will in many cases also appeal to meat lovers since a well-prepared eggplant will provide the meaty mouth feel. I have cooked this personal favorite at least a dozen times based on several different recipes, and this has turned out the way I like it the most. I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it as much as I do!
You can of course alter the recipe according to your own liking - for example, it also tastes great with added chicken, fish, or zucchini - but keep in mind that the hero of this dish should remain the eggplant with a scrumptious parmesan crust. The recipe includes a simple but delicious tomato sauce, which should be made with fresh tomatoes and basil.
4-6 servings Gluten-Free Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 Eggplants, medium-sized
- 10-12 Gluten-free crackers (75g / 2.5 oz)
- ¼ cup Gluten-free flour
- 3 Eggs
- 12 Basil leaves, fresh
- 3 tsp. Oregano
- Salt & Pepper
- Olive oil
- 1/2 lbs / 200g Mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 lbs / 200-250g Mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1/2 cup / 100g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1.5 lbs Tomatoes, fresh, no Romas
- 12 Basil leaves, fresh
- 3 tbsp. Thyme, fresh
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 1 Carrot, chopped
- ¼ cup Olive oil
Step 1: Slicing the Eggplants
Start with medium-sized eggplants with a round blossom end without indentations, as these have the best flavor. Large eggplants tend to be more bitter. First remove the skin of the eggplants with a vegetable peeler, then cut them as evenly as possible into slices of a 1 inch thickness.
Step 2: Drying the Eggplants
It is of prime importance that the eggplants are dried well before baking. To already remove some moisture from the slices, firmly press them, one by one, in between two napkins for a few seconds.
Removing the rest of the moisture requires a more elaborate procedure which you need to start at least an hour before starting the rest of the process:
- Find a portable item with a flat surface such as a large oven dish or chopping board
- Cover the surface with one or more layers of absorbent paper such as kitchen towels or napkins
- Spread some salt over the paper, this will help draw out the moisture
- Put the eggplant slices on top of the salt
- Spread salt on top of the eggplant slices
- Cover the top of the slices with another layer of napkins/kitchen towels
- Repeat the last 4 steps for the next layer(s) of eggplant slices
- Put another large flat item on top of the stack and add at least 15 pounds of weight to this so the eggplant slices get compressed enough
Now leave this contraption alone for at least 1, but preferably 3-4 hours. I usually do this in the morning or early afternoon.
Step 3: Preparing the Sauce
The trick to a stunning sauce for the eggplant parmesan is to not make it too liquid, but give it some chunkiness, so that the eggplant will not absorb the moisture too much, become soggy, and ruin the entire dish. This is why I chop the vegetables, herbs and tomatoes instead of running them through a food processor.
First, heat up the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and add the chopped onion. Let it sit for 5-8 minutes or until it turns soft and golden brown. Make sure to give it a good stir every now and then.
Add the thyme, chopped basil and chopped carrot, and let it cook another 5 minutes or until the carrot has softened.
Step 4: Adding the Tomatoes
First, the skin of the tomatoes needs to be removed. You can do this by first cutting a shallow 'X' into the bottom of each tomato, adding it to boiling water for about a minute, and then immersing it into ice water for about 30 seconds. This will make it very easy to peel the skin off.
Now, you can start chopping up the tomatoes. You can chop them up quite finely, finer than you would usually dice a tomato for example. I usually chop them down to bits of about 1/6 to ¼ of an inch.
Stir the chopped tomatoes into the saucepan, and bring the whole to a boil. Finally, reduce the heat to a medium level and let the sauce simmer for at least 30, but preferably 90 minutes, so the sauce gets reduced enough and produces a more intense flavor.
Step 5: Frying the Eggplant
Creating a beautiful crust on the eggplant is a crucial step, because it gives rise to a slightly crunchy bite and prevents the eggplant from absorbing moisture from outside, retaining that delicious meatiness.
Here is how it's done:
- Crush the gluten-free crackers to produce small crumbs. It is best done with a mortar and pestle.
- Put the crumbs in a shallow bowl together with 2 tsp of oregano, the fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Get another shallow bowl or plate and fill it with the eggs. Thoroughly mix the yolk and egg white.
- Provide the eggplant slices with a layer of gluten-free flour by adding the slices and flour to a small plastic bag. Then close the bag and give it a good shake.
- Heat up some oil in one or two frying pans.
- Dip each flour-coated eggplant slice into the egg until all the flour has been covered with a thin layer of egg. Then dip each side of the slice, including the sides, into the crumbs mixture, and fry it for about 4 minutes on each side or until it turns light brown.
- After frying, let the slices dry and cool on some paper towels.
Step 6: Layering
First, preheat your oven to 190C / 375F.
Butter up a baking dish and apply a thin layer of your freshly made tomato sauce over the bottom.
Then add the first layer of eggplant slices and fill the gaps with mushrooms.
Add another layer of sauce and put half of the mozzarella on top.
Repeat these steps for another layer, and finish it off with 3/4 of the parmesan cheese and the remaining oregano.
Step 7: Bake, Plate & Serve
Insert the dish into the oven and bake it for exactly 45 minutes at 190C / 375F.
When it's finished, add the remaining parmesan cheese on top just before serving. As a symbol of freshness and to add some color to the plate, you could add a fresh basil leaf.
Hurray! Your own gluten-free eggplant parmesan is finished!
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