Despite the unusual growing season, our eggplants produced decent fruit this year. While we occasionally grill or saute eggplant, one of my favorite ways to prepare this vegetable is in eggplant parmesan.
I know this is not the traditional way of preparing eggplant parmesan. Rather than layering the veg between marinara sauce, I prefer to serve most of the sauce as an accompaniment on the side. That way, I preserve the light, crispy coating.
Position a rack in middle of the oven and heat the broiler to low. Place the eggplant slices in a colander set in the sink or over a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt, toss to combine, and set aside to drain for about 5 minutes.
Place the flour in a wide, shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper. Combine the eggs and milk in another shallow dish and set aside; mix the panko and cheese together in a third shallow dish. Remove the eggplant slices from the colander and pat dry with paper towels. Bread the eggplant by coating a few slices in the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour, dip the slices into the egg mixture, and press them into the panko mixture; be sure to coat the slices thoroughly at each step. Set the breaded eggplant on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining slices.
Line another baking sheet with paper towels and set a wire rack over the towels; set aside. Fill a large, straight-sided skillet or frying pan with 1 inch of the olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350°F on a deep-fat thermometer (the oil should be shimmering but not smoking). Add about a third of the eggplant slices and fry on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip and fry the other side for another 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to the wire rack and repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Pour the warmed tomato sauce over the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Shingle eggplant slices, over the tomato sauce. Top with cheese. Place in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and speckled with gold, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately with extra tomato sauce on the side.