Lake Norman Magazine

Update a classic with the grill

Take the heavy greasy feel out of the classic Eggplant Parmesan with the grill!

When making such Italian-American classics such as eggplant parmesan, you usually don’t think of the grill. The traditional start to this classic dish is either to bread and fry the eggplant before assembling or to simply just fry the slices. They could also be baked, but why not give them a quick char on the grill?

The one thing that is displeasing with a lot of restaurant versions of eggplant parmesan is that the final product is too greasy. Eggplant is nature’s sponge and absorbs any and all liquids in its path. So deep frying, even if at the proper time and temperature, will completely saturate the slices of eggplant.

Lightly brushing the eggplant with a little oil will only allow it to absorb enough to coat a thin outer layer of the eggplant. When grilling these lightly oiled eggplants, there will be just enough oil to char (or lightly grill fry) the outside and cook all the way through without getting soggy.

The eggplant should be soft all the way through but not falling apart when finished. The result after layering with sauce, breadcrumbs and cheese is a light, clean-tasting and grease-free eggplant parmesan.

The grilled eggplant parmesan below includes a recipe for pecan bacon breadcrumbs that takes this dish to another level. Feel free to substitute with regular or Panko bread crumbs for great results.

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan with Pecan Bacon Bread Crumbs:Serves 4 2-3 Each Eggplant-ends removed, peel, slice lengthwise 1” thick (12 slices) To Brush Extra Virgin Olive Oil To Taste Kosher Salt & Black Pepper 6 Cups Grammas Red Sauce – see recipe below2 Cups Pecan Bacon Breadcrumbs – see recipe below 2 Cups Parmesan Cheese-freshly grated 4 Cups Mozzarella-shredded 4 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano

Eggplant:Pre-heat grill for direct heat, grilling to medium high heat; brush both sides of eggplant with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Place on a baking sheet and allow to cool.

Assemble:Cover the bottom of a large iron skillet, or two, with a little red sauce. Lay the four biggest pieces of grilled eggplant on the red sauce and spoon on enough red sauce to cover the eggplant.

Top the sauce with some of the pecan bacon bread crumbs, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and then about a half tablespoon of oregano.

Place the next biggest size grilled eggplant slices on top of each to form the next layer. Repeat a layer of red sauce, pecan bacon bread crumbs, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and oregano.

Top each with remaining pieces of eggplant and cover with red sauce, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Grill/Bake:Place skillet(s) on the top rack of a preheated grill or in a 350-degree preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until warmed through, and cheese is golden and gooey. Remove from grill/oven, using a long flat metal spatula to remove the eggplant from the skillet, and place on a plate, top with a little warmed red sauce, parmesan cheese and serve.

Grandma G’s Red Sauce3 Ounces Extra Virgin Olive Oil1 Medium White Onion-medium dice5 Large Garlic Cloves-fine dice

Warm Olive Oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot, add onions and garlic, turn heat down to medium and cook until onions are soft. Do not burn garlic. 1 Can Whole Tomatoes-14 ounce can, crush by hand

Add hand crushed tomatoes and cook to warm through, about five minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar1 1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper1 Tablespoon Dry Oregano1/2 Teaspoon Dry Basil

Add all spices and cook about five more minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

2 Each Tomato Sauce-29 ounce cans1 Each Tomato Paste-6 ounce can2 1/2 Cups Water

Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and water, stir to combine, raise heat to medium, stirring frequently until sauce begins to boil. Do not let sauce stick to bottom of pot. Reduce heat to low and cook for at least 3 hours, stirring frequently to prevent burning sauce on the bottom of the pot

It is best to cook the sauce the full amount of time, even longer if you can. It is also better the next day after it has cooled completely and reheated on a low temp. We almost always make ours the day before.

If you need to speed up the process, only add 1 cup of water and cook at medium heat, stirring more frequently to prevent burning.

Pecan Bacon Breadcrumbs 10 Slices French Bread-sliced 1” thick, oiled, grilled, rubbed with garlic, stale 1/2 Pound Bacon-peppered, cooked, drained and rough chopped 1 Cup Raw Pecans-whole pieces 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Cut stale garlic toast into cubes and place in a food processor, pulse until bread cubes are smooth crumbs. Remove from the processor and place in a mixing bowl.

Next, place the pecans in the food processor, and pulse until they are in small but textured pieces. Do not over process and turn into a powder. You still want to be able to see the pieces of the pecans in the breading. Place in the bowl with the bread crumbs.

Place the bacon in the processor and pulse like the pecans until you have small but recognizable pieces. Place in the bowl with the bread crumbs and pecans and add the salt, pepper and oil. Mix with your hand to combine. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.