Friday, 14 October 2016

Sausage or Ham & Cheese Eggplant Casserole

This isn't the first time I've made an eggplant casserole with bits of bread in it; in fact this is basically the same thing as before with tomatoes taken out and sausage and peppers put in. The tomatoes are still there, just in the form of sauce now. In spite of the fact that this is an odd duck of a dish, it never fails to be popular. It's very rich which no doubt helps.

It makes a complete meal in itself, although if your sausage is spicy a cool pudding, jelly, or fresh fruit will make a gratefully received dessert. If you want something else with the casserole, a green salad would be ideal.

If you want ham instead of sausage, just dice it up but don't sauté it. Just plonk it in the baking dish, sauté your vegetables in the oil, and carry on from there. 

It's best the first time around but leftovers do heat up reasonably well.

6 servings
1 1/2 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Sausage or Ham & Cheese Eggplant Casserole

750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) eggplant
1 large onion
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 large red pepper, such as Red Shepherd or Chervena Chushka
1 small loaf baguette, preferably whole wheat but definitely stale
750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) spicy Italian sausage
sunflower or olive oil to sauté

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
a little cayenne or other red chile (optional)
1 cup chicken stock
200 grams (1/2 pound) cheese curds or grated Cheddar

2 cups tomato sauce, heated

Wash, trim, and cut the eggplants into bite-sized cubes. (Eggplants vary in size but you are likely to need 2 or 3). Salt them well and put them in a colander to strain, with a plate and a weight on top.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Remove the seeds and stems, and chop the peppers fairly finely. Cut the baguette into bite-sized cubes.

Chop the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Cook it in a large pan until browned all over; you may or may not need to use a little oil to keep it from sticking. It depends on how much fat is in the sausage. Once it is well started, add the onion and cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute longer. Remove the sausage, onion, and garlic to a 9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse and drain the eggplant very well. Add it to the pan in which the sausage was cooked; you will likely need to add a little oil first but it depends on how much the sausage has left behind. Hopefully your sausage is not so greasy that it has left lots, so add enough oil to have about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Cook the eggplant over medium heat, stirring and tossing frequently, until it is evenly softened and slightly browned in spots. You may need to do this in 2 batches and you will almost certainly need to add a bit more oil as it cooks. There is no stopping the eggplant from soaking it up, and the alternative is that it will scorch.

When it is ready, mix it in with the sausage etc, along with the cubes of baguette. Season with the salt and pepper, and the fennel and chile ONLY if your sausage is inadequately spiced. Spread the mixture out evenly. Pour the chicken stock as evenly over the mixture a you can and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browning.

Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. Pass with the hot tomato sauce.

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