Eggplant Casserole Acadiana
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Fill a large Dutch oven half way full of water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the eggplant. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the eggplant in a colander, reserving 1 to 2 cups of the cooking liquid separately. Allow eggplant to continue to drain while you proceed.
Return the same Dutch oven to the heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring, until very soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ground beef and tasso and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat is brown, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, Essence, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the reserved eggplant, ham, and 1 cup of the reserved eggplant cooking liquid and stir gently to combine. Cook for 5 minutes. The mixture should be moist but not soupy. If it seems too dry, add a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid. In a small bowl combine the heavy cream, eggs, and green onions and add to the eggplant, along with 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Stir gently to combine.
Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch casserole and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges and lightly golden on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch
Published by William Morrow, 1993.