- 4 small eggplants
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 onion, halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cans San Marzano tomatoes
- A couple of sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar (optional)
- Basil, a few leaves torn for sauce, plus garnish
- 1 1/2-2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese or fresh smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (a couple of handfuls)
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
Cut six slits into each eggplant, being careful not to cut all the way through. It will look like an armadillo. Salt the flesh of the eggplant and let stand for 30 minutes. Pat the moisture away with paper towels.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil, two turns of the pan, in a medium size saucepot. Add the butter and melt it into the oil. Add the garlic and swirl for 2 minutes, then spoon off a few tablespoons and moisten the panko. To the pot, add the halved onion, bay leaf and tomatoes, crushing them up a bit. Add a few sprigs of thyme, stir in the stock and the honey or sugar, then tear in a few leaves of basil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove the thyme stems, bay leaf and onion. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
Fill the accordion folds of the eggplants with slices of mozzarella. Choose casserole dishes that leave some room around the eggplants. Divide the sauce between the casseroles, arranging two eggplants in each. Cover the casseroles with foil and roast for 20-30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the eggplant is crispy at edges, about 20-30 minutes more.
Toss the garlic-butter panko with cheese, chopped parsley and mint. Once the eggplant is crispy at the edges, top with breadcrumbs, return to oven to brown, 10-15 minutes more.
Serve a whole eggplant with sauce per person and garnish with a few leaves of torn basil.