Every Friday, I offer a recipe for the weekend when those of us who love to cook have more time to do so. Today's recipe is Eggplant Casserole, a creole/cajun creation that will convert those who aren't fans of eggplant, like myself.
Last month, I travelled to New Orleans for the Association of Food Journalists' conference in New Orleans. A group of us went out to dinner at Mandina's, a classic Creole-Italian restaurant in a bright pink house on Canal Street.
There are all these neighborhood restaurants in New Orleans, where crawfish etouffee and spaghetti and meatballs are on the same menu. It's the result of a large migration of Sicilians to the city. Many of these immigrants started out owning grocery stores/produce stands that would later become these neighborhood joints.
It is the same story for Mandina's, which has been owned by the same family for four generations. Brett Anderson, the Times-Picayune's restaurant critic, wrote a series of stories called "Mandina's Rising" about the restaurant's recovery post-Katrina. He won a James Beard award for the series.
I'm not a big fan of eggplant. But Judy Walker, the Times-Picayune food editor, ordered the eggplant casserole. When you eat with food writers, everyone tastes everyone else's dishes. And so, the eggplant casserole got passed around the table. I really liked it; likely because the eggplant was barely recognizable in this spicy meat-shrimp-veggie casserole. This dish has been stuck in my head ever since I got back.