Eggplant tops list of veggies

It’s likely that des bremes (eggplant) appeared on many Thanksgiving tables in south Louisiana last week.

“Not at our house,” you say.

“No, not at Thanksgiving. We look forward to it every Christmas. Mama-Sis-Cousine Belle-Momo-Marrain (godmother) fixes the best eggplant dish you ever tasted!”

Thanksgiving. Christmas. Anytime. Eggplant has long had a place on the list of most appreciated jardinage (vegetables) in south Louisiana.

What’s not to like?

Eggplant is:

a. inexpensive (maybe even free as it’s often homegrown).

b. readily available (see “a”).

c. versatile (have you counted the many ways it can be prepared? )

d. all of the above.

Answer? Definitely “d”óall of the above.

Eggplant’s use in a casserole or in dressing that will be served to la compagnie (the company) expected at holiday gatherings makes sense.

Quite a few of the eggplant casserole and dressing recipes in south Louisiana cookbooks state that they “may be prepared the day before, refrigerated and baked before dinner.” Other recipes claim that the casserole or dressing “freezes well.” Both suggestions can be a blessing if it is impractical to prepare every menu item from “Step 1” to “Serve” the day of the holiday feast.

Given a choice between a casserole and dressing you may select the casserole. But which eggplant casserole? There’s beaucoup (plenty) to choose from.

All the eggplant casseroles follow an accepted form. Firstly, the main ingredient lends its name to the recipe ó Eggplant Casserole or Eggplant-Something Casserole.

Secondly, some type of protein is featured allowing the casserole to function as an entrée. But not usually on a holiday.

For this dining extravaganza the casserole becomes an accompaniment to the roast turkey, baked ham, pot-roasted duck, or stuffed pork roast that is the star of the meal.

“What type of protein is used?” you ask. A look at fifteen-plus south Louisiana cookbooks revealed this fact. Fact: if you prepare Eggplant Casserole for one holiday meal each year, you could select a recipe for at least nine years without repeating any of them.

Of the recipes reviewed several used ground beef; another blended beef and pork. If pork sounds appealing, consider the version featuring bulk pork sausage. Chopped cooked chicken isn’t a common ingredient, but it was one cook’s contribution to a community cookbook.

Seafood more to your taste? Shrimp and crabmeat, alone or in combination are well-liked. Have you considered pairing crabmeat with crawfish? Perhaps; it’s less likely however, that you’ve considered adding canned tuna to eggplant casserole as one recipe instructed.

The addition of other ingredients ó chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, du persil (parsley), des queues d’oignon (onion tops) ó increase the yield of the recipe and add flavor as do garlic, salt and pepper, both black and red.

A high proportion of some starchy ingredient is characteristic of casseroles making it possible to feed a crowd often inexpensively.

Bread, usually dried bread crumbs plain or seasoned, but sometimes slices of bread dampened with water, is a common ingredient in eggplant casseroles.

Rice is usually reserved for the simpler eggplant dressing recipes. Fewer ingredients are typical of this dish with some recipes having no protein at all and only a few using shrimp or ground beef.

Whether baked in a glass baking dish, served from a Magnalite pot, or returned to the hollowed eggplant shell, baked and brought to the table as Stuffed Eggplant, we know that eggplant casseroles and dressings are equally deliciousóc’est tres bon. Any version can make even an everyday meal seem like a holiday.