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)


  1. Rick, would it work to grill the eggplant slices for this?

  2. Give it a try. They take on a lot of oil, so you might want to brush them with some olive oil.

  3. I actually cook the eggplants slices in salted water, this way they don't get so greasy but still yummy.