Note: To purge eggplant without using microwave, Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Shingle the eggplant slices on top of the towels and top with another double layer of paper towels. Place a second rimmed baking sheet on top. Bake until eggplant slices are easily compressed, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Working one slice at a time, press between paper towels until compressed. Continue with step 3.
- 2 1/2 pounds Italian eggplant (about 3 or 4 medium), sliced into 1/2-inch slices lengthwise
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves garlic, garted on a microplane grater
- 4 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice
- 1 large onion, peeled and split in half
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs, thoroughly beaten
- 6 ounces panko-style bread crumbs
- 4 ounces finely grated parmesan (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 pound grated whole milk mozzarella (about 4 cups)
Season eggplant slices lightly on both sides with salt. Place double layer of paper towels or clean kitchen towel on large plate and lay single layer of eggplant slices on top. Top with 2 more layers paper towels or clean kitchen towel. Top with second large plate and place another layer of paper towels and eggplant on top. Top with third large plate. Microwave on high power until eggplant is easily compressed, about 3 minutes (be careful, plates will be hot).
Working one piece of eggplant at a time, press firmly between paper towels until compressed. Set aside on a large tray. Repeat microwaving and pressing steps until all eggplant slices are compressed.
Puree tomatoes and their juice in a food mill, blender, or food processor until no pieces larger than 1/16th of an inch remain. Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, 2 teaspoons oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, onion, half of parsley, and half or basil, bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and cook until reduced by half, about 1 hour. Stir in half of remaining parsley and basil and season to taste with salt. Remove the onion and discard. Set aside.
Place flour in one wide mixing bowl, eggs and 1 teaspoon salt in second wide mixing bowl, and breadcrumbs, remaining 2 teaspoons oregano, and 1/4 up parmesan in third bowl. Working with one slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, dip in egg, and coat in seasoned bread crumbs. Transfer breaded eggplant to rimmed baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust oven rack to center position. Line clean rimmed baking sheet with double layer of paper towels. In a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat oil to 375°F. Carefully slide 3-4 eggplant slices into hot oil in single layer. Cook, shaking pan occasionally until first side is golden brown and crisp, about 2 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip eggplant and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until second side is crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Transfer slices to paper-towel lined baking sheet and season immediately with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
In a 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish, spread 1/4 of tomato sauce over bottom. Add 1/3 of eggplant slices in single layer (they may overlap a little bit). Press down to form even layer. Add 1/4 of tomato sauce and spread evenly. Evenly spread 1/3 of mozzarella and 1/3 of remaining parmesan over sauce. Repeat with two more layers each of eggplant, sauce, and cheese, reserving 1/4 cup of parmesan at the end.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until light golden brown and bubble on surface, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining parmesan over the top. Allow to rest for fifteen minutes, sprinkle with remaining parsley and basil, and serve.