UPDATE 15 OCTOBER 2011:
This is such a great eggplant dish, I wanted to update the photos from the original post. The following text is in its original form, but the photos have been replaced.
For my week of French food, I chose one meal from Ina’s Barefoot in Paris. This is easy French food, as the subtitle rightly claims. Eggplant gratin was Ina’s husband’s favorite meal the first time they visited Paris. I can see why. I had an eggplant from my CSA, and in this richly flavored gratin, it made quite a meal. I also served Ina’s green salad vinaigrette and some toasted sourdough baguette with the gratin. The only problem with this meal was that it ended up happening one day later than planned. While prepping the parts of the gratin, I pre-heated my oven or thought I did. Just when I was ready to pop the dish into it, I noticed that it had pre-heated to nothing. This is the same oven that had just baked baguettes the day before, and it sat there, literally giving me the cold shoulder, mocking my dinner-making efforts. Into the refrigerator went the gratin. A pasta meal was prepared instead, and the next morning I set about finding an oven repair person. Unbelievably, I found a repair service that came an hour and a half after being called, fixed the oven quickly, and charged exactly what was quoted. I had forgotten what it’s like to receive such good service.
With the oven back in working order, the gratin was baked at last. It’s really a simple dish. You do have to fry the eggplant slices before layering them into the dish, but that’s the most difficult part of the preparation. The recipe suggests using a store-bought tomato sauce, but I had some left-over, homemade sauce in my freezer. That was thawed and poured over the fried eggplant slices in a baking dish, a second layer of eggplant was added, and a mixture of ricotta, eggs, half and half, and parmigiano reggiano was spread on top. These were supposed to have been individual gratins in separate dishes, but I used one larger baking dish instead. A little extra parmigiano was applied, and it was placed in the once again fully functioning oven.
This is similar to eggplant parmesan, but the ricotta mixture puffed into a nice, custard-like layer making it a slightly different dish. I could see making a larger version of this with several other vegetables included as well, but it was an excellent way to highlight eggplant. The tomato sauce and the cheese mixture were delicious together, and the humble eggplant was made into something really special. With the salad and bread, it was a great meal. I can also highly recommend the green salad vinaigrette made with an egg yolk. Because of my oven issue, I learned that the gratin can be made in advance and baked when you’re ready. Good to know. This was another successful meal from Ina, and clearly Jeffrey has very good taste.