Eggplant Alternative

I'll come right out and say it. I may be one of the world's most passionate lovers of eggplant parmesan. I know, I know. As a chef instructor at a classically French oriented culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu, I probably should think twice about professing my love for such an iconic, pedestrian, stereotypical Italian-American dish, but it's just so amazingly delicious when done right that I don't care what anyone thinks.

Doing it right may mean different things to different people, though. Some chefs peel their eggplant, while others leave the skin on. Some chefs slice it thick, others thin. Some chefs bread and fry the slices, and others prefer to grill them. There are also a lot of choices to be made when it comes to the construction of the dish as well. Which cheeses to use, how to flavor the sauce, how many layers to build, and how long to bake the casserole are all very personal decisions to the chef in charge.

This all leads me to the real point of this article...a casserole of eggplant parmesan is certainly a delicious thing, but try deconstructing the whole kit and caboodle, and re-build it as a sandwich on some great crusty bread. You've just upped the deliciousness factor by at least two-fold, because we all know that almost everything is tastier and more fun to eat in sandwich form.

Just last night I had a very successful experiment with this concept, and I'd love to be the one to inspire you to try it sometime. My choice for this variation was to grill the slices of eggplant...no point in breading and frying since we're eating them between two pieces of bread anyway. My choice was a good Italian-style hoagie loaf, and I gave it the garlic bread treatment. Onto the bread went a thick schmear of simple marinara sauce, on top of which I laid the grilled eggplant slices. Next, I piled on a thick layer of sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, and on top of that a good grating of parmigianno reggiano cheese. This bad boy went under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheeses, and then I hit it with a good sprinkling of hot giardiniera before closing it up and making a massive mess of my face. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten.