Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Best Eggplant Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Best Eggplant Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A Chicago Johnny Recipe

the best eggplant grilled cheese sandwich
The Best Eggplant Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I first discovered Parmesan crusted sandwiches from a small town bakery up in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. This place, Bodi's Bake Shop closes early in the afternoon but is very welcoming, small town, & incredibly reasonably priced foods. Their danishes are on point but their sandwiches are something you will be wondering in amazement how a small Wisconsin bake shop can turn out these delicious, made to order sandwiches.

So once I was introduced to this crispy fried cheese concept some of the sandwiches I created were turned up a few notches. Crusting your grilled cheese with salty, nutty Parmesan can bring another element to a grilled cheese that you have probably been missing out on!

So to make this "Italian" inspired grilled cheese sandwich you will need the following: a fire roasted red pepper (skinned & seeded), roasted or sauteed garlic cloves, eggplant (skinned), fresh basil leaves, grated or shredded Parmesan, ciabatta bread, creamy tangy Havarti, smoked provolone, sea salt, & black pepper. There are a number of steps that I take in order to make such a friggin' delicious grilled cheese, but they are worth doing so that your end product is just as good as it can get!

Before you even get to compiling The Best Eggplant Grilled Cheese Sandwich, you will need to do some preparation. First, roast your red pepper either on the flame stove-top, on a grill, or in a broiler. Once charred all around, cover your hot red pepper in a sealed bowl or container & let sit, this will make the skin easier to peel off. Once cooled, peel off the skin & take out the seeds of your red pepper.

Next you will roast your garlic. Roasted garlic is one of my favorite things to eat. Unlike the peppery bite you get from raw garlic, roasted garlic is very mild & sweet, & also very soft so you can smash the cloves easily. To roast garlic, take a bulb & rub your hands around the outside to remove any loose paper skin. Cut just the top of the bulb off to expose each (or as many cloves as possible), then drizzle some olive oil & sprinkle sea salt. Roast your bulb in the oven on 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on how many bulbs you are roasting & how big the bulbs are). You will know when your garlic is done roasting because you will be able to "pop" the clove out of the paper skin & it should "smoosh" right out. After your garlic bulb cools, peel away the paper skin & try to keep your cloves in tact.

You will also want to prepare your eggplant. Eggplant is an amazing flavor "carrier" in the sense that it will soak up whatever flavors you put on it. So skin your eggplant & slice about 1/4" thick slices (either round circles or lengthwise depending on the size of your eggplant & the size of your bread). Heat up some olive oil on medium heat in an iron skillet. Lay in your eggplant slices in the oil & season with sea salt & black pepper, then quickly flip your eggplant & season again. You want to flip the eggplant because it will soak up just about as much oil as you can put in the pan, so to prevent the eggplant from becoming too greasy you should flip it to absorb your olive oil on both sides of the eggplant. Cook each side of your eggplant slices until they start to "char" well.

Slice your ciabatta roll in half & lay both pieces with the insides up on a baking sheet. On the top half put your provolone slices & on the bottom half put Havarti on the bottom half. Bake on 350 degrees for 5 minutes to melt your cheeses & toast your bread just a bit & then take out of the oven.

Now you can start building your sandwich! Layer your sandwich as follows!

Bottom half with Havarti, lay your eggplant on top, then your roasted red pepper, then your roasted garlic, then your top half with provolone on bottom. Heat up your skillet again & use olive oil for your frying. Sprinkle about 2 Tbl of your Parmesan cheese & immediately lay your sandwich on top of the Parmesan. Fry 2-3 minutes on your heated skillet, then use a spatula to remove your sandwich, sprinkle another 2 Tbl of Parmesan & immediately lay your sandwich on the Parmesan upside down. Fry another 2-3 minutes to crisp the Parmesan & toast the ciabatta. Remove your sandwich from the pan with your spatula & turn off your heat. Pull your sandwich top off & lay in your fresh basil. Now enjoy this labor intensive, friggin' amazing eggplant grilled cheese sandwich!

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