Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.
About 25 years ago, my daughter and I spent a few days visiting old haunts in New Orleans, mostly eating. We treated ourselves to the famous Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, which was wonderful — fun, good music and delicious food.
One dish impressed me so much, I begged for the recipe. Our server took my plea to the kitchen and the chef actually sent down a copy!
I have made some minor changes, using olive oil in place of part of the butter, offering substitutions and expanding the directions for the home cook. “Eggplant Court” has become a traditional part of our holiday meals.
‘Court of Two Sisters’ Eggplant Casserole Recipe
This casserole freezes well. Take advantage of fall eggplant harvest and make a double recipe. Freeze in serving-sized containers for winter meals. I like to prepare just the vegetables and freeze packets to finish into the casserole later.
Don’t worry about reheating — it will all be gone. (But also don’t tell the meat-and-potatoes guys that it’s eggplant!)
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 red bell peppers, diced
• 1 celery stalk, sliced thinly
• 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut to ½-inch dice
• several large cloves roasted garlic
• 1/2 stick of butter
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (dried is fine, too)
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• freshly ground pepper, several turns of the mill
Ingredients for the second stage
• 1 pound creole Andouille sausage, shredded**
• 1 cup parsley, cut with scissors
• 9 cups fresh bread crumbs from 1 loaf French bread
• 6 eggs, lightly beaten
Directions, Stage 1
1. Start by dicing all the vegetables, mounding them up on a big cutting board or on a sheet of wax paper or parchment.
2. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter in the oil and begin cooking the onion, pepper and celery. Season well with the thyme, salt and pepper. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the eggplant and continue cooking, covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fully soft. Do not brown.
3. Remove from heat, taste and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
4. Stop here if you’d like to freeze the eggplant mixture for a later date. Doesn’t that look delicious? I’m going to freeze this batch of veggies now and bring it out in a couple weeks to finish and bake for a special dinner.
5. When you’re ready to finish the casserole for a special dinner, completely defrost the eggplant mix, turn it into a large bowl and continue on:
Directions, Stage 2
1. Butter your baking dish. I like to use a 3-quart soufflé or deep casserole dish. If you’d like more crust, a 9-by-13 baking dish will work.
2. Salt and pepper can seem to disappear when frozen; taste a bit of the eggplant and adjust, adding more sea salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the parsley and the sausage and stir well. Add the bread crumbs, stir in and then add the beaten eggs. Stir well. Pack into a casserole. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes in a deep dish, less in the 9-by-13.
4. Uncover and continue baking another 15 minutes. When you peek into the center, it should look set. Your kitchen thermometer will read about 170 degrees.
** Note: Shred sausage in the food processor. You can substitute party-time links or sausage cooked in patties and crumbled. You can make this vegetarian by leaving out the sausage, but add pepper to make up for the spicy sausage.
This casserole makes a one-course meal or can be used as a side dish or even to stuff a chicken, turkey or a thick pork chop. It makes a delicious alternative to the traditional dressing we love in holiday meals. For a grand buffet dinner party, my daughter bakes a double batch of this and keeps it warm in a crock pot set on low.
Another little trick that worked: To get as much done ahead as possible, I lined regular bread loaf pans with plastic wrap, packed in the finished eggplant casserole and froze them. Then, after they were frozen, I pulled the casserole “loaves” out of the pan and put each into freezer bags for freezer storage. Come party day, the frozen casseroles are unwrapped, dropped back into the loaf pans and baked.
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