I have never liked eggplant parmesan. I remember trying it as a kid, because my mom loved it, and being absolutely repulsed by it. I’ve also had other eggplant dishes between then and now, and have never really cared for them. I’ve grown to not hate them as much, mind you, yet I still wouldn’t consider myself a fan of eggplant at all.
But I’m also married, and my significant other, who has recently gone full vegetarian, absolutely loves the stuff. Because of this, I knew from the moment I saw in their circular that they would be offering a frozen eggplant parmesan, that I would have to take one for the team, and give it a shot. Sealing the deal was the rather miniscule asking price of $5.99, for a family-size dish that weighs well over a pound…not a bad trade-off there at all. I figured since she cooks for me quite often, the least I could do would be to suck it up, and let her eat something she loved, while I gagged my way through dinner. Hey, it’s called “compromise”; if you’re not familiar with the concept, you’re probably single, and chances are you will stay that way for a long time.
Anyway, I made a suggestion that we should have garlic bread with it, treating this as if it were a typical meat-based lasagna. This was my fall-back plan: garlic bread is one of my favorite things in the world, so I figured if the eggplant sucked, I would at least be able to fill up on bread. As with many lasagna’s, the eggplant took a while to bake in the oven, clocking in somewhere around the 45-55 minute range…we didn’t feel like waiting that long, so there’s conveniently a microwave method, which took a mere 15 minutes. I’m sure it would have maybe gotten a little more “done” in the oven, but seeing as how this isn’t really something that’s super-crispy to begin with, I doubt much would have changed besides the texture.
After trying the first bite, I have to say the one thing that really sticks out is the sauce: it’s got some great tomato flavor that’s better than most found even in meat dishes. Or maybe it’s just that the eggplant really helps to bring out its tomato-y flavor. It’s really pretty delicious especially considering that it’s in a frozen entrée. But that’s not all: Even the darn eggplant won me over. It’s packed full of flavor, which I wasn’t expecting, and while I still wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the stuff, it’s a good change of pace from the norm for me. Maybe I just had bad eggplant before, but I always remember it having some bitter notes–there’s none of that to be found here. The somewhat slimy texture is still a little off-putting for me, but the flavor is strong and honestly tastes as close to “fresh” as anything frozen can be. For a second opinion, we look to my lovely wife, who recently started working at a mom-and-pop Italian place that’s the real deal, and while she’s clear that this can’t come close to touching her restaurant’s homemade eggplant parm, she says it’s far and away the best frozen eggplant entree she’s ever had.
I might be biased, but that’s recommendation enough in my book!
Overall: 8/10. I do not like eggplant. I liked this a great deal. My wife loves eggplant. She loved this a great deal. The sauce is excellent considering it’s frozen…it’s got quite a surprising amount of tomato flavor that suggests more of a canned sauce rather than one found in the freezer. But the eggplant is surprisingly smooth and tasty, with none of the bitterness I remember from trying it many moons ago. It’s still not one of my favorite vegetables, but when paired with the sauce and cheese, it tasted even better. As a testament to its deliciousness, my mouth is watering just typing this up–we will be getting this again for sure. Oh, and the $5.99 asking price (which has been maintained for a couple of years now) is absurdly low for a frozen dish of this quality…I wouldn’t be surprised if Olive Garden just heated these up and served them as their own. Then charged you $10. Because that’s something a shit place like Olive Garden would do.