Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

Sometimes there's nothing quite like a sandwich for dinner. Now I'm not talking about a PB&J on squishy Wonder Bread or even baloney and a square slice of American "cheese" straight from the cellophane (not to diss the cheese...unless, of course, we're talking Velveeta) with a smear of Miracle Whip. Nope, I'm talking about a favorite Italian entree turned into a glorious grilled cheese sandwich. The Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme.

What makes this grilled cheese supreme? Besides warm slices of crispy eggplant, slivers of roasted red peppers, bits of fresh basil, and slices of smoky provolone? Why, both outsides are finished with shredded mozzarella and double grilled to create a crispy, crunchy fried cheese surface. A frico exterior, if you will.

Costco has those beautiful little eggplants in the fresh produce section again, so naturally I bought a bag...then promptly forgot about making them - nothing new there (oops). Once remembered, I set out late in the evening to make a nice big dish of eggplant parm. I started out strong, but once the purple edged veggie slices were oven fried, I simply ran out of time and energy. Instead of cooking into the wee hours, I put them in the fridge for the night after enjoying a couple for "quality control" purposes. The next day, I had "fried" eggplant slices to play with!  

First, I built the sandwiches (and delivered an extra to my sister, Jeanie, for dinner last night). I still have slices to make into individual ramekins of eggplant parm and just to eat as a side dish with grilled chicken or a good medium rare steak. You know, I might just make eggplant slices ahead from now on...I bet it would even freeze to use whenever I wish. Ooooo...and often!

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

  • 2 C fresh or packaged fine breadcrumbs - I used 3 slices of gluten-free bread to make mine GF
  • 1 1/2 t granulated garlic
  • 1/2 t Kosher salt
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 6 small or 3 medium eggplants, tops and bottoms cut off, sliced lengthwise into 1/2" slabs
  • canola oil
  • Pam or other cooking spray
  • jarred roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • smoked provolone slices
  • shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  • Italian bread, cut diagonally into hefty 1" slices
  • a good jarred marinara

First combine breadcrumbs, granulated garlic, salt and oregano in a plastic bag and shake until well mixed. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using 2 baking sheets, pour enough oil on each sheet to just skim the surface. Spray both sides of the eggplant slices with cooking spray, then put a few slices at a time into the breadcrumb mixture. Shake and coat the slices well, place on the baking sheets and repeat until all the eggplant is coated and on the baking sheets. Spray the top sides with cooking spray to help them brown.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until all the eggplant is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Let cool. At this point, either use the eggplant right away for the sandwiches or store covered in the fridge until ready to make the sandwiches or whatever else you may be making.

Sandwich Assembly:
Butter the outsides of the bread slices. In a skillet or griddle, put the buttered side of one slice of bread down, add a slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the bread), then  a layer of eggplant (be sure to warm the eggplant quickly in the oven), strips of roasted pepper, torn pieces of fresh basil, another slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the contents of the sandwich), top with the other slice of bread (buttered side up) and grill until the bottom of the sandwich is beautifully brown. 

The proper amount of shredded mozzarella to finish the sandwich.

Carefully turn the sandwich over, carefully put a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on the already grilled side. When the other side is beautifully browned, carefully turn the mozzarella-ed side down and repeat the shredded mozzarella on the upside of the sandwich. Carefully turn again and brown the second mozzarella-ed side. Be careful not to burn the mozzarella...just brown it until crisp. Remove to a plate and serve with warm marinara to dip.

After the final grilling with the mozzarella browned, crisped, and ready to cut and serve.

DO try this. It. Is. Fabulous! 

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