Baked Parmesan 101
From the cheesy baked dish to the innovative sandwich version, it’s clear everyone loves the cheesy, crispy fried goodness of Baked Parmesan recipes. We wanted to share some insights and tips on this popular Italian-American dish.
The ultimate Italian-American creation, Baked Parmesan got its start with the beloved eggplant in Italy. A cherished ingredient in Southern Italy, the eggplant began this breaded, fried trend with a baked dish known as Melanzana alla Parmigiana: breaded shallow-fried eggplant rounds baked up in a tangy tomato sauce and topped with an assortment of Italian cheeses. What’s not to love?
Eggplant Parmesan Tips
An ideal dish is still crisp, never soggy, and big on flavor. Here’s some advice for your creations.
- Buy Italian: You might think we’re biased, but Italian eggplant boasts fewer seeds and denser texture, making them easier to work with.
- Slicing style: While it’s true you can slice an eggplant lengthwise, we prefer rounds, 1/4-inch thick to be precise.
- Sweating the eggplant: Just as it sounds! Get your eggplant to sweat before use so that you may remove any bitterness. Place eggplant slices in a colander, sprinkle with Kosher salt and then allow to set for 30 minutes. Before using, blot rounds off with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
- Even better that sweating: If you’ve got time for it, we’ve found a great way to remove excess moisture—roast your eggplant slices before use. All you need are 2 baking sheet and some paper towels. Line a baking sheet with paper towels, arrange eggplant slices, then top with more paper towels and the other baking sheet. Roast at about 350˚F for 30 minutes. Once roasted, press lightly on slices to flatten (as they might get a little puffy).
- Breading matters: Don’t go bland with the breading. In all Parmesan dishes (eggplant, chicken or veal) breading does three things: adds texture, insulates what’s inside and enhances flavor. Make sure your breadcrumbs are doing their jobs. We recommend breadcrumbs seasoned with Italian herbs and spices and the flakier the better! Bread as follows: dredge in flour, coat with egg and then lightly toss in breadcrumbs.
- Bring on the heat: Shallow-fry eggplant slices in a wide skillet and make sure the oil is hot! To test oil readiness, drop in a breadcrumb to see if it sizzles.
- Keep it crisp: Transfer just-fried slices to a paper-towel-lined dish to remove excess oil. Don’t be afraid to pat dry with more paper towels.
Chicken and Veal Parmesan Tips
Keep it crisp and juicy with the right techniques.
- Slicing style: As we mentioned with the eggplant version, be sure meat is sliced thinly. Thinner sliced chicken and veal will ensure doneness without burning the breading. Also, it’s easier to work with.
- Breading matters: As we emphasized in the eggplant tips, don’t be boring with your breading. Breading creates texture, keeps meat juicy and adds to the flavor. Make sure your breadcrumbs are doing their jobs. We recommend breadcrumbs seasoned with Italian herbs and spices and the flakier the better! Bread as follows: dredge in flour, coat with egg and then lightly toss in breadcrumbs.
- Evenly fried: First, aim for a temperature of about 400˚F throughout the cooking process. Try the breadcrumb sizzle test! At home, it’s easiest to shallow-fry in a wide skillet; however, if you’re feeling risky—go for a deep-fried cutlet. Either way, make sure pieces are fried evenly on both sides.
- Keep it crisp: Transfer just-fried cutlets to a paper-towel-lined dish and pat dry with more paper towels to remove excess oil.
Bake or Sauce and Serve
You might want us to weigh in on the great debate of Sauce vs. No Sauce. See, some believe baking with marinara makes crispy, fried cutlets and eggplant rounds too soggy and so they would rather serve it up with sauce last. We prefer it baked with sauce and cheeses, but it’s all up to you. Just remember, a properly fried entrée should stand up to hearty sauces and melty cheeses. What do you think?