Baked Eggplant Gratin

August 7, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

eggplant gratin

Eggplant harvested right from the Tomato Envy garden is one of my favorite end-of-summer treats. I said last year that I was going to grow less eggplant, but it didn’t happen. This year though, I’m much better equipped with eggplant recipes so that none of it goes to waste.

Compared to standard supermarket eggplant, the world of heirloom eggplant is mind-blowing – there are hundreds of varieties in all sizes, shapes and colors. This year, I’m growing a beautiful Cambodian green eggplant, a Thai white ribbed eggplant and the gorgeous Rosita variety. The Rosita is shaped like a common supermarket eggplant but it’s a stunning light purple color and the flavor of the snow-white flesh is never, ever bitter. This is the one I use for dishes requiring sliced eggplant, like this one.

eggplant gratin

 

 

 

As someone who was a long-time vegetarian, I have always been a sucker for a good eggplant parmesan. Fried eggplant, rich tomato sauce, and golden brown melted cheese, YES PLEASE! This eggplant gratin recipe adapted from Ina Garten features all those wonderful flavors baked up in a dish that’s decidedly French. This is a rich dish for sure with the egg-y custard, but because the eggplant is fried without being breaded, it doesn’t feel as heavy as most eggplant parmesan. Serve it with red wine and a crisp cucumber or lettuce salad to balance the richness.

Ina has you layering the ingredients in individual gratin dishes which I’m sure is très élégant for her Hamptons dinner guests. If you have individual gratin dishes, great – simply divide up the ingredients as you layer. For me, one larger baking dish like a 9×13 works nicely.

Another note: I normally do not use olive oil for frying, and I have tried frying the eggplant in oils suitable for higher heat applications such as rice bran oil, sunflower oil and even canola oil. Each time, I was disappointed in the flavor of the finished dish. The olive oil here is highly recommended.

eggplant gratinIngredients (Serves 4)

Olive oil, for frying

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup full-fat ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 cup good marinara sauce – if you don’t have homemade marinara sauce, you can use bottled and I recommend Rao’s

eggplant gratin

You’ll thank me for this I swear!

Step one:

Olive oil, for frying

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with a couple layers of paper towel and set it next to your cooktop.

Heat about 1/8 of an inch of olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is very hot – you can test it by dropping in a slice of eggplant, it should sizzle – add as many of the eggplant slices as you can without crowding the pan. You’ll be working in batches. Fry the eggplant, turning over once, until the slices are nice and brown on both sides. This will take about 5 minutes per batch. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil during cooking so you may need to add more oil as you cook the batches of eggplant. Be careful because the hot oil is likely to splatter – wear an apron! Also, you will make a mess during this process but it is absolutely worth it and you can clean up your kitchen while the eggplant gratin bakes in the oven!

As you go, remove the slices and set them on the paper towels on your baking sheet to drain. Season the slices with salt and pepper.

eggplant gratinStep two:

1/2 cup full-fat ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 cup good marinara sauce

Whisk together the ricotta cheese, eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Season the mixture with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

eggplant gratinPlace a layer of eggplant slice in the bottom of your baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pour the marinara sauce over. Add a second layer of eggplant slices and pour the ricotta custard over the entire dish. Sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of Parmesan and a little freshly ground pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425° and then lower the oven temperature to 375°. Bake for about 20-25 minutes more or until the top of your eggplant gratin is bubbly and golden brown. Let the dish rest for at least 15 minutes after cooking – you want to serve this warm, not hot.

This eggplant gratin reheats well and makes a perfect next-day lunch that will make your workday a lot more pleasant!

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Category: Food, General, Main Dishes, Recipes, Summer

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