Eggplant is a late-summer gift from God. Eggplant breaded and fried, served on a bed of creamy Mornay sauce, and sprinkled with spicy buffalo sauce can only be gifted by a heathen (in other words, it's extra-good). Fried Eggplant Mornay with Buffalo Sauce is crunchy, salty, cheesy, creamy, and spicy all in one bite. I'll say my prayers later.
I love fried eggplant. I remember my grandmother at the stove, frying these little guys batch after batch. Nearby, a plate lined with paper towels waited to absorb the newly fried aubergine. As soon as my grandmother removed them from the hot oil, she sprinkled them with Romano cheese. I remember finding reasons to go into the kitchen, just to steal one more.
My grandmother peeled the eggplant and sliced them thin. She dredged them only in flour and egg and fried them. They were perfect that way, but sometimes I want that extra crunch. So this recipe calls for two types of breadcrumbs, Panko and Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs. The Panko gives the eggplant a crispy texture, and the Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs give it more flavor. To make it extra delicious, I add parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. This breadcrumb/cheese mix is perfect for breading everything from eggplant to chicken. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
This fried eggplant recipe includes a mornay sauce, but they are delicious on their own with a squeeze of fresh lemon, or in eggplant parmesan. My grandmother loved to make eggplant sandwiches. She ate them cold between thick slices of good Italian bread, some lettuce, and mayo.
How to Buy an Eggplant
Choosing which eggplant to buy is easy. You just need to look for a few things:
- Make sure the skin is smooth. Just like aging people, cracked and shriveled-looking skin is the sign of a geriatric eggplant. It's old. Don't buy it.
- Give the eggplant a squeeze. If it's firm, you're good to go. If it feels soft and spongy, put it back.
- Lastly, avoid buying the largest eggplant. Large eggplant tends to have more seeds. Lots of seeds can be unpleasant to eat and make the eggplant bitter. Choose the middle path and buy a medium-sized eggplant.
- I picked my eggplant straight from the garden and you can too. Check out the gorgeous eggplant at Caruso Farms East. You're sure to get a firm, smooth, young eggplant there.
Why Should You Soak Your Eggplant
Finding an eggplant void entirely of seeds is impossible and seeds make eggplants taste bitter. Soaking the slices of eggplant in water and salt draws out the bitterness.
The Importance of Drying Eggplant Before Frying
In frying any food, it's imperative that the food be completely dry. Moisture breaks down oil and prevents the food from achieving a crunchy, crispy texture. Pat your food dry with paper towels or clean dish towels.
Other Recipes for Fried Eggplant
- Eggplant Parmesan. Simply line a 9x13 dish with marinara sauce, and add a layer of fried eggplant. Add a layer of ricotta mix (see manicotti recipe). Top with a final layer of marinara sauce. Cover with more sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake at 350° F for 45 minutes.
- Fried Eggplant Sandwiches. Hot or cold, nothing beats slices of fried eggplant between thick slices of fresh Italian bread. Your kids will love them too. My mom packed them for my school lunch when I was a kid, and I pack them for my kids.
- Fried Eggplant with Lemon Slices and Grated Parmesan. Simple is almost always best. Once you fry your eggplant, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and lemon wedges and serve.
For the Eggplant:
Fried Eggplant Mornay with Buffalo Hot Sauce
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, skin peeled, and sliced ¼ inch thick (or thinner if you can)
- 2 TBSP kosher salt
- ¾ cup flour
- salt and pepper (for seasoning)
- 4 eggs whisked
- 2 TBSP heavy cream
- ¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ cups parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
- ¾ cup olive oil (for frying) (plus more if needed)
- 2 TBSP butter (for frying) (plus more if needed)
- ¼ chopped parsley (for garnish)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Buffalo Hot Sauce
- ½ cup butter (one stick)
- ½ cup hot sauce (Frank's)
For the Eggplant
- Peel the eggplant and slice it thin (¼-inch thick or less).
- Add the sliced eggplant to a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover the eggplant and add two TBSP kosher salt. Set something heavy (like a heavy skillet) on top of the eggplant and soak for 30 minutes.
- Drain the eggplant slices and dry them between clean dishcloths or paper towels.
- Once the eggplant slices are completely dry, it's time to bread your eggplant. In a medium bowl, add the flour, season it with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper.
- In one more bowl, mix together Panko, Italian breadcrumbs, and grated parmesan cheese.
- Pour ¾ cup of olive oil into a large, non-stick skillet. Add the butter and turn heat to medium-high. Allow the butter to fully melt before adding the breaded eggplant.
- Dredge a slice of eggplant into the flour. Coat each side well and shake off the excess. Dip the floured slice into the egg-and-cream mixture, again coating each side well and shaking off the excess. Lastly, repeat this process by dipping the floured and egged slice into the breadcrumb mix.
- Fry the breaded eggplant on each side until golden brown (about a minute or two per side). Adjust the heat if needed. If the eggplants slices are too dark, lower the heat. If they look soggy and pale, raise the heat.
- Remove the eggplant from the pan and drain them on a dish lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese.
- Work in batches. Don't overcrowd the pan. If the oil gets low you can add more. If the oil becomes too dark discard it and wipe the skillet out with a paper towel before adding new oil.
To Make the Mornay Sauce
- In a 3-quart stockpot, add the chicken stock and cream. Turn the heat to medium and let the sauce come to a gentle boil.
- Simmer in this way until the sauce reduces by half (about 20 minutes). The cream can easily bubble over. Stay close to the stove and adjust the heat if you need to.
To Make Buffalo Hot Sauce
- In a small nonstick pan add ½ cup butter and ½ cup hot sauce. Heat the sauce until butter is fully melted. Remove pan from heat.
- Place a few pieces of fried eggplant in the center of each dish. Drizzle the perimeter of the dish with the Mornay sauce and then the Buffalo hot sauce. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley and serve.