Eggplant Parmesan is something that I love the idea of more than the actual dish. The reason? When the eggplant is baked covered in sauce and cheese, the flavors tend to get lost and become muddled and the work spent crisping up the eggplant is almost for naught as it ends up soaking up the sauce and becomes soggy.
So I figured why not deconstruct the dish and let all the textures and tastes shine and become something more than the sum of its parts? Thus my Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan Stacks were born.
There are a few tips that make this dish truly amazing.
First, salting the eggplant. Salting brings the moisture to the surface and gives the eggplant a firmer texture. It will also remove any bitterness the eggplant may have.
The next tip is to coat the eggplant slices with Kinnikinnick’s gluten-free panko style breadcrumbs. These bread crumbs are actually formulated to become exceptionally crispy and stay that way even the next day, which is really helpful if you want to prepare the dish ahead. They also do not absorb too much oil during the cooking process so the eggplant is just crispy, not greasy.
First the eggplant slices are coated with some rice flour or whatever gluten-free flour you have on hand. Then they are dipped into beaten egg and finally into the panko style bread crumbs.
The final tip is to cook all the liquid out of the tomato sauce which not only makes it stay put within the eggplant Parmesan stack but also intensifies the flavor.
These can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated until about 15 minutes before serving if desired. Simply let them sit out for 10 minutes to take the chill off, pop in the oven for 5 minutes and voila! A beautiful and exceptional version of eggplant Parmesan – every flavor and texture is distinct and delicious! And another plus is that the presentation is elegant enough to serve at a dinner party to even your most important guests.
On the off chance that you wind up with any left over stacks, they can be reheated for a few minutes in the microwave or oven and they are still spectacular.
Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan Stacks Recipe
2 medium eggplants cut into 12 – ½ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
2 – 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted chopped tomatoes
1 cup rice (or any other gluten-free) flour
4 large eggs
2 cups Kinnikinnick panko style bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 thin slices mozzarella cheese (for ease I use pre-cut cheese from the deli counter)
12 large fresh basil leaves
Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt liberally on both sides of the slices. Let sit over a plate or in the sink for 30 minutes.
While the eggplant is sitting, prepare the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper and Italian seasoning and cook for 2 minutes. Add the un-drained cans of tomatoes and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Set aside until ready to assemble the stacks.
Rinse the eggplant slices after 30 minutes of sitting in the colander. Pat dry.
Place the flour on a dinner plate. Beat the eggs together well in a shallow dish. Combine the panko style bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese and place in a dinner plate. Line up the dishes starting with the flour, then the eggs and finally the bread crumb mixture. Place a wire cooling rack next to the bread crumb mixture.
Take each eggplant slice and coat first in the flour then dip into the egg mixture and finally coat with the bread crumb mixture, patting the mixture well onto the eggplant slices. Place the coated eggplant slices on the cooling rack. Repeat until all the eggplant slices are coated.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add in enough olive oil to coat the bottom – about 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot, fry the eggplant in batches for 3 – 4 minutes on each side (until golden brown). Place the fried eggplant slices back on the cooling rack and repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Build the stacks on the cooling rack – divide the tomato sauce evenly on top of 6 of the eggplants. Top each with a slice of mozzarella cheese, two basil leaves and another slice of eggplant. (Can be made ahead at this point and refrigerated. If making ahead, take out of the fridge and let sit for 10 minutes before the final cooking.) Place the cooling rack on a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes in the preheated oven or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
This Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan Stacks Recipe serves 6
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