Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baked Eggplant Sandwiches – Get’em While They’re Room Temp!

I didn’t intend for this baked eggplant sandwich to turn into yet another Super Bowl party food post, but two bites in and I realized that’s what may have happened. The reason for this epiphany had nothing to do with taste or texture, but with temperature. I’d forgotten just how truly delicious these are served at room temp, which was always how the Italians I learned this from served it.

Of course, like any normal person faced with a warm, cheese-filled anything, I ate one as soon as possible, and it was great. Golden-brown and crisp on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside. However, when I went back for seconds an hour later, I got to experience these in all their cooled-off glory.

While not as crispy, they were still crunchy around the edges and featured an entirely different flavor profile. Hot salami isn’t the greatest expression of the sausage maker’s art, and you really don’t appreciate the eggplant’s subtle sweetness playing against the cheese when hot.

I’m not sure exactly why, but Italians seem to have a thing for room temperature fried foods, especially vegetables. I’ve heard Mario Batali talk about this before, but there seems to be a long tradition of letting fried stuff cool down first before eating.

Happily, this practice works perfectly for entertaining, since you can bake these off ahead of time, and put them out on a tray anytime. Whether for your Super Bowl party, or not, I hope you give these addictive eggplant sandwiches a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for each eggplant sandwich:
2 thick slices eggplant (Note: some people salt the slices to draw off liquid, which they say is bitter. I’ve done this for other eggplant recipes, but not for these sandwiches. With the breading and filling, I actually think the slight bitterness is an advantage.)
3 thin, small slices of salami
1/2 slice provolone cheese
1 generous tablespoon olive oil, divided
seasoned flour as needed (flour with enough fine salt, pepper, and cayenne so that it tastes “seasoned” when you dip your finger in it)
beaten eggs, as needed (2 eggs is enough for about 4 sandwiches)
plain breadcrumbs, as needed
1 tsp very finely grated Parmesan cheese


Ed Adams said...

Ohhh, I can't wait to make these. I'm going to pair them with the cream of mushroom soup that I just made yesterday...mmm. I posted about that already. Once again, thanks Chef John.

Eric Pepple said...

To be honest I'm not a big eggplant eater, but these look delicious! Maybe the addition of salami and provolone will change my eggplant eating ways. Thanks for sharing!

Happy Valley Chow

Arthy shama said...

oh.. that is nice dish chef.. am waiting to try at home

Dipti Joshi said...

This recipe is a definite delicacy for those who relish Indian cuisine.
I am trying out the shallow fried version of this recipe.

Freddie Rivera said...

I tried these, and they are a keeper, loved them. Thank you.

Nicole @ GF Shoestring said...

I think you were wise not to risk being caught measuring a tapered vegetable like eggplant. Without our pride, who are we really? Love the look of those eggplant sandwiches!

Nicole Hunn

Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea for nibbles during the game.

Roberto said...

First I need to try this great looking recipe. But the next time I'm grilling something, I'd like to omit the flour/egg/breadcrumb step and try cooking these on a hot charcoal grill for a few minutes with a sprinkling of Parmigiano after the first rotate and flip. What do you think?

Stefan said...

Brilliant idea chef. Turned these into eggplant Reuben sandwiches. They were a big hit. Thank you for the inspiration!

Did you use EVOO or just regular OO? Would you ever use EVOO when roasting at a temp above smoke point?

Ed Adams said...


Sunday, NFC Championship Niners versus little birdies. I'll tell you what I really thought of these sandwiches after the game. I have eaten them already both warm and at room temp and....well my decision on whether these are great or just good rest on the niners kicking some birdie butt today.

Candace said...

I made these today as a light lunch, paired with a simple salad. They turned out pretty good, but I think next time I'll add a few more slices of salami. I know you say not to over fill them. I don't know if mine was just too mildly flavored, but I really couldn't taste it. Luckily I have another eggplant to try again tomorrow!

Nepenthe said...

Wow, can't wait to try this. I love eggplant, and baking instead of frying is a big bonus for me.

Rita said...

just when i'm sick, of course, i'm watching your videos. so this, the goose, pork loin, among others goodies you have on your blog are making me hungry. sigh.

Lauren said...

Okay, I admit it... I served them hot. And they were awesome.

Chef John said...

That's ok. You are the boss of your eggplant. ;)

toru said...

Do you/anyone have a suggestion for a vegetarian stuffing? In order to include my veggie friends i'd like to substitute the salami with something aromatic but plant/mushroom-based.. I suspect tofu (smoked or plain) would not be aromatic enough, also i try to avoid it.

Up to now, i mainly used shiitake mushrooms to replace meat when required.

toru said...

Can you (anyone) suggest a vegetarian replacement for the salami? I am looking for something similarily aromatic here, and from my experience tofu (smoked or plain) would fail to add an interesting note to the taste.

Sidenote: This is my first time commenting here and this is the third edition of this comment, since the first two did not show up. Anyhow, if i overlooked my prior comments and they are in fact postet: Sorry for re-re-reposting.

Ed Adams said...

I'm making these again this weekend with Ham and Swiss. I was going to go Reuben but not the local mart or my main store has corned beef. Seriously, what gives. Anyway, for a vegan replacement I think roasted red peppers and/or tomatoes coupled with some buffalo mozzarella would be great. Perhaps strengthening the seasonings in the flour a bit also. But, there is no Chef next to my name, so let's see what Chef John has to add.

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Eggplant sandwiches for a Super Bowl Party?? Ya' got's to be kiddin'. Ya can't be serious!

Eggplant be fine fer' a Baby Shower but never a Super Bowl viewing party for that is one sure way to forfeit one's man-hood card.

C'mon man!

Me on the other hand will be serving up the Cornbeef - Pastrami that you posted up a while back.

Yippers... won't be any beer guzzling fellas checking up on my man-hood card come kickoff time!

Thanks anyways!

Elle Bella2011 said...

I just finished making and eating this. I would definitely make these again. You can get creative with the filling. I love that it's a sandwich with out bread being a key component. Thanks Chef John,

James atusf said...

Made first time this weekend. Very good. I hand slicked my salami too thick, but it was still very good.
I probably will make again. Make sure you top eggplant is balanced on top, the melted cheese will cause it to slide off. I put mine next to anther 'eggplant sandwich' to keep it on. I put my leftover in the freezer, plan on thawing --> oven some other day. Probably will retain the good taste.

TA Anderson said...

Made these over the weekend as an appetizer. Cut them in quarters and served with a warm marinara dipping sauce. They were a hit. Thanks again Chef John!

Annie in Cali said...

Made these tonight and they looked exactly like Chef's pictures! Hubby does not like eggplant, so I opted to salt and drain in order to avoid any chance of that eggplant tingle. Filled them with sauteed ground Italian sausage and chopped mushrooms with ground up hard cheeses. I had leftover bread crumbs with ground up pistachio nuts from another meal, so I used that. Served with a chunky marinara and field green salad. Absolutely delicious and hubby ate two! He said he actually liked them. These might be my new go-to hors d'oeuvres for upcoming holiday parties. Next batch - spicy soppressata!