April 4, 2009

Eggplant Gratin

I have been religiously following Ina Garten's show "Bare Foot Contessa" on Food Network. This recipe really caught my fancy as I love eggplants and always think of different ways of incorporating them into my cooking. Also, the similarity of this dish to Eggplant Parmesan, a dish that has been a family favorite for some time, made me eager to try it the same day I watched it being aired. The first time I made this, it turned a bit salty-- I guess, that's because I seasoned the eggplants with salt & pepper while roasting. The second time I made this dish, I did not roast the eggplants; instead I sauteed them as Ina mentions in her recipe. Also, I seasoned them sparingly with salt and pepper while sauteeing. My hubby says that sauteeing the eggplants is actually better, as it removes all the water content and replaces it with oil, which helps to reduce the bitterness present in the eggplants.

I have copied and pasted this recipe from Food Network site, and made only a few modifications. This recipe is definitely a keeper-- the dish is cheesy and saucy to eat. We ate this with a crusty bread slice on the side. YUM!

Good Olive oil, for frying
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant that are seasoned with salt and pepper (both sparingly) and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.

Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

Note: Go easy on the salt and pepper as the cheeses already have some salt in them.

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