Sunday, August 22, 2010

Provençal Savory Eggplant Custard (Gratin D’Aubergines)

Here’s a rich savory end of summer dish for those of you who have lots of ripe tomatoes and basil in your garden. It is a delicious side dish or could be a main course to serve four. Use a big gratin dish, baking or lasagna pan. In Provence they would use a soft cheese called Brousse, but Ricotta is a good substitute.

Extra virgin olive oil

4 Italian eggplants, stemmed, unpeeled and washed and cut into ½ inch slices

4 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, coarsely chopped, and drained of liquid

1 cup basil, washed and cut into thin shreds

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 gloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

8 oz. ricotta cheese (or Brousse)

2 large eggs

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Freshly grated black pepper


Sprinkle the cut eggplant slices with kosher salt and let them drain in a colander for half an hour. Then dry them thoroughly with paper towels. In a large stick-proof pan put enough olive oil to come up 1/4 inch and heat slices over medium heat. Cook for ten minutes, turning once. You will need to do this in three batches. After each batch place cooked eggplant on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. The eggplant absorbs a lot of oil, so you may have to replenish it a bit for each batch.

When the eggplant is finished remove all but two Tbs. of the oil, reduce heat to low and sweat the onion for ten minutes. Turn the heat up to high, add the drained tomatoes, garlic and salt and cook for about ten minutes stirring until the mixture as given up most of its juice. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk together the Ricotta cheese, eggs, half the Parmesan cheese, and the cream in a large bowl. It should be the consistency of a thick cream, but pourable.

Arrange half the eggplant slices in a single layer in the bottom of your pan (photo below). Grate pepper to taste, sprinkle the basil shreds, and half of the remaining Parmesan cheese. Spread the tomato/onion mixture. Add another layer. If you have leftover eggplant slices press them onto the top.

Pour your egg/cheese,/cream mixture over the top and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over top. Place pan in the oven and turn heat down to 350 f. Bake for 30 minutes or so until custard has set and is golden brown. Serve hot.

For a wine match-up I would suggest a dry rose from Provence.
(Photos: R. L. Floyd)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grilled Orange-Juice Marinated Pork Chops

Here's a nice summer main course that you can make on the grill and not have to heat up the kitchen.  You can use bone-in or boneless pork chops for this, although I think the bone-in kind have more flavor and stay moister better on the grill.

The main challenge with grilling pork chops is to get them properly cooked without drying them out. My marinade evolved over the years from a teriyaki sauce to its present citrus form. I think pork has an affinity for citrus flavors, and the Asian flavors are a nice match.

You can throw the marinade together in minutes, put it and the chops in a gallon freezer bag, and stick them in the fridge for a couple hours (or longer) until grill time.  Turn the bag over and slosh it around a few times.

For the marinade:

1tbs. peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1 large glove garlic peeled and chopped

1/4 cup dark soy sauce

3 tbs. dark brown sugar

2 tbs. peanut oil

2 tsp. sesame oil

½ cup orange juice

2 tsp. orange zest

Whisk it all together.

Cooking the chops:

Heat the grill to high. Remove the chops from marinade and save the marinade. Put it in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer so that it can thicken a bit. Take a small amount for basting and save the rest as a sauce for the chops.

Oil the grill, put on the chops. After a minute turn the chops 90 degrees to get nice grill marks and turn heat to medium. Depending on the thickness of the chops it will take about 3-5 minutes a side to cook them through. Baste them before you turn them over, and from time to time as you go. The brown sugar will burn if you don’t keep moist or let the flame get too high.

When they come off the grill let them sit for a few minutes then pour the hot marinade over them (not the batch you’ve been basting with.) I served this with grill-baked sweet potatoes and fresh corn. A pinot noir from the South of France rounded it out nicely.