Fried Eggplant and Fontina Sandwiches
Lorenzo Fluss, my cooking teacher in Sorrento, taught me how to make many of his favorite foods, including antipasti. He always stressed that it is the quality of the ingredients and how they are prepared that makes all the difference. The success of this recipe depends on the initial salting of the eggplant to remove its bitter juices.
MAKES 12 TO 16
- 2 firm medium eggplants
- 3/4 cup King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups toasted fresh bread crumbs
- 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, cut in 3 x 3 x 1/4-inch thick slices
- 12 tofresh sage leaves
- Peanut oil for frying
- Wash and dry the eggplant but do not peel. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer the slices in a colander, sprinkling them liberally with salt. Set a large bowl filled with water on top of the slices to weigh then down and let stand for about 1 hour. This removes the excess water and the bitterness from the eggplant and helps prevent it from absorbing too much oil when fried.
- Spread the flour on a plate. Break the eggs into a shallow bowl, add 1/8 teaspoon salt, and mix well with a fork. Spread the toasted bread crumbs on another plate.
- Wipe the eggplant slices free of salt. Put 3 slices of Fontina on a round of eggplant, add a sage leaf, and cover with a second eggplant round. Continue making sandwiches until all the ingredients are used.
- Dredge both sides of each sandwich in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the sandwiches in the eggs, then in the bread crumbs to coat on both sides. Put the sandwiches on a plate to dry slightly.
- Pour enough peanut oil into a large frying pan to coat the bottom and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add just enough sandwiches to fit without crowding and fry them, turning once, until the eggplant is nicely browned and the cheese is just starting to melt. Drain the sandwiches on brown paper. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches, adding additional oil if necessary. Serve immediately.
- Note: If you can't find fresh sage leaves, use flat-leaf parsley. Do not use dried sage — the flavor is medicinal tasting.