At the height of Louisiana's summer, eggplant makes a short but very abundant appearance. Luckily, there are no shortage of ways to prepare aubergines. Fried, baked, grilled or as baba ganoush? Yes, please. And our new favorite: this gratin in all its tomatoey, cheesy glory.
2 medium eggplants, sliced in 1/2” slices Garlic olive oil for frying
2 cups milk, heated
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 tsp Sonoma Gourmet Kosher Flake Salt, divided
1/2 tsp Nutmeg*
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups Fresina pasta sauce
Preheat oven to 375 ̊. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. After butter has melted, add flour and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to brown the roux. Add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Continue cooking over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until sauce is thick. Add 1 tsp kosher, nutmeg and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat garlic olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Working in batches add eggplant slices to hot oil. Brown eggplant slices on both sides and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Continue, adding more oil as necessary, until all eggplant has been cooked.
In the bottom of a large gratin or tart dish pour 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce. Working in concentric circles, place eggplant slices over sauce until the bottom is covered. Pour remaining sauce over first eggplant layer. Place another layer of eggplant slices over sauce. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon of kosher salt over eggplant slices. Pour béchamel (milk) sauce over second eggplant layer and cover with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until cheese had browned slightly and is bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
*In this dish, Lori creates a Bechamel sauce (blonde roux and milk) to achieve the creamy consistency that makes this dish so delectable. Just about every white, creamy sauce (Alfredo, Bechamel, Cheese Sauce) benefits from a pinch of Nutmeg. The use of nutmeg in these applications goes back to classical French sauce making techniques. Nutmeg adds a layer of almost indistinguishable, but necessary, flavor to the rich sauces. It seems to help cut the richness and adds depth. Just a pinch will do. The sauce shouldn't shout, "NUTMEG!"