Eggplant Gratin (Gratin D’Aubergines, Provencal)
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Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • TOMATO SAUCE
  • 1/3 cup minced yellow onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 pounds (1.36 k) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and chopped (recommend San Marzano or other meaty tomato)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar (If your tomatoes are very sweet, you can probably omit.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs parsley (You can make an herb bouquet if desired, just tie the parsley, bay leaf, and thyme up into a piece of cheesecloth.)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
  • small pinch saffron
  • small pinch coriander
  • 1-inch piece dried orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

  • CASSEROLE
  • 2 pounds (~900 g) eggplant (firm, fresh, shiny)
  • water
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 ounces (113 g) Swiss cheese, thinly sliced (or Emmentaler, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Fontina)
Preparation
  1. TOMATO SAUCE: In the 3-quart saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil until the onions are tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes. Do not brown.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herbs, and seasonings. Cover the pan and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, so the tomatoes will render more of the juice. Uncover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add spoonfuls of water or tomato juice as necessary if the puree becomes too thick. The puree is done when it tastes thoroughly cooked and is thick enough to form a mass on the spoon. Remove the herb bouquet (or individual parsley and thyme sprigs and bay leaf). If the puree needs a little extra color, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. (You can make this ahead and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F/190° C.
  4. EGGPLANT: Halve the eggplant vertically and cut into 3/8-inch (~1 cm) slices.
  5. Bring water to boil in the 4 to 5-quart saucepan. Add salt, about 1-1/2 teaspoons per quart, and place eggplant slices in the hot water, about 10 to 12 at a time. Cook just for 2 minutes, then remove from the water with a skimmer or slotted spoon. Drain on the tray lined with paper towels. Pat the slices dry.
  6. In the skillet, pour a layer of olive oil about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Heat till very hot but not smoking. Sauté eggplant slices about 1 minute on each side, and remove to the platter. Add more olive oil as necessary for the rest of the eggplant.
  7. ASSEMBLE: In the oiled gratin dish, arrange the eggplant slices purple side up in overlapping rows, with tomato sauce and cheese slices between each row. Pour about 1/2 cup of the tomato puree on top.
  8. BAKE: Place the gratin dish on the cooktop and heat briefly until the sauce starts to bubble. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes to brown the cheese and thicken the liquid. Serve hot.
More Information
Equipment:

3-quart saucepan with heavy bottom and lid
4 to 5-quart saucepan with heavy bottom
skimmer or slotted spoon
tray covered with layers of paper towel
11-inch frying pan, preferably nonstick
platter
5 to 6-cup gratin dish (preferably one that can also go on the cooktop), lightly coated with olive oil
aluminum foil

Recipe Notes:

Due to the amount of active preparation required, I would save this for a weekend dish or make it ahead then reheat on a busy weeknight. You can make the sauce ahead and save it for up to three days in the refrigerator or freeze it, or you can make the entire dish ahead and partially cook then reheat before serving. Of course for easier prep you can lay the eggplant flat and build horizontal layers instead of vertical, though I agree with Julia’s thought that the vertical layers are attractive.
Recipe by Andrea Meyers at https://andreasrecipes.com/eggplant-gratin-gratin-daubergines-provencal/