This is one of those meals that's pretty much just inspired by me trying to use things from my CSA box. I almost never buy eggplant when I go to the grocery store, but we've recently gotten a few in our CSA box. So I was trying to dream up some kind of interesting dinner to use them in. This was the result. And I think it might be a new favorite! It does take a little longer to prepare (mainly because potatoes just take a while to bake), but it's SO worth it. You should definitely make this for yourself and/or your loved ones soon.
I will for sure be making these again, especially once the weather cools down. A warmed baked potato stuffed with crispy eggplant and gooey cheese sounds like the perfect autumn comfort dinner. So even though the idea came this month, I'm filing this away as a possibly-even-better-in-the-winter recipe.
P.S. Is it too early to start getting excited for fall? It is. OK, forget I said anything then.
3-4 russet potatoes
1/3 cup oil, divided
one small to medium eggplant (approx. 8 oz.)
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely shredded or powdery Parmesan
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
5-6 medium to large basil leaves, torn
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to season
Begin by rinsing the potatoes and patting them dry. Use a fork to poke holes all over the potatoes, piercing the skin. I usually insert the fork 5-6 times per potato but you don't need to be exact. Lightly oil each with about 1/2 teaspoon of oil per potato and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle on a little salt. Bake at 375°F for 50-60 minutes. My potatoes were about 12-13 oz. each, so you may want to bake your potatoes a little longer (or less) depending on the size. If you are unsure, it's better to over bake a little rather than under bake them. You can test them by trying to cut through with the side of a fork. If it's too hard to cut, then bake them longer.
Meanwhile prepare your eggplant coins. Here you need three small bowls. In one bowl add the Panko and Parmesan. In another bowl combine the eggs and whisk well. And in the third bowl, add the flour. Add the remaining oil (about 1/4 cup or a little more) to a large pan (I used a large cast iron skillet), and heat over medium high heat. You can adjust the oil amount here to whatever works best with the pan you plan to use. Mainly you're just looking to have plenty of oil in the pan as we are pan frying the coins, but you don't need so much that they will float (like you would in deep frying). So long as the entire bottom of your pan is covered in a thin layer of oil, you are good.
Rinse and cut the eggplant into thin coins, discarding the very top and bottom. Dip each coin in the flour, then into the egg, and last into the bread crumb/Parmesan mix. Fry each coin in the oil for about 45 seconds to one minute on each side. Then remove to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. You're looking to really get these guys crunchy!
Once the potatoes are baked through, remove from the oven and use a sharp knife to add a slit along the top of each. Press the ends toward each other (with pot holders since they will be hot!) until the baked potato pops open in the center. If it doesn't pop enough, just use a spoon to gently open it more. Inside add 3-5 eggplant coins, topped with marinara sauce and cheese. Then pop these back in the oven for 5-8 minutes just until the cheese is melted.
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman.