|A seafood dressing casserole, made with fresh shrimp, crabmeat and eggplant.|
Seafood and Eggplant DressingI was introduced to eggplant by my first mother-in-law. Eggplant was something that I do not ever recall my mother preparing, in any form, not one single time ... but my mother-in-law did cook it, and often. One of the ways, was in a wonderful seafood dressing.
Miss Ursula, that's what everybody called her, has passed on now, but she was a sweetheart. Actually my father in law was too - even after The Divorce, despite the fact that they were a staunch Catholic family, they never treated me any different and to the day they both passed away, they were always kind and welcoming to me anytime they saw me.
I used to love to sit and drink coffee with my father-in-law and listen to his war stories. And let me tell you, he liked his coffee. With chicory and super strong. My mother-in-law used to say you could stand a spoon in it! Didn't bother me - I just poured lots of cream in there and listened intently to his tales, of which he had many. A machine gunner in the Marines during World War II, he was one of thousands of young sailors who saw the American flag raised over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He had fought in many battles though - Saipan, Guam, and Okinawa - and was even recalled to active duty during the Korean War. You would never know that his eyes had ever seen a single war though. He was the kindest southern gentleman you could ever possibly meet, and full of obvious love for his wife.
I will never forget my first experience having dinner at their house when I was dating my ex-husband, because you see, Miss Ursula had a slew of sons and not a single daughter. My ex-husband was 1 of 7 boys. Can you imagine? How they managed to do that between all of his tours of duty is beyond me.
I gotta say, the first time I had dinner at their house, goodness was it crazy! All the way up to Grace, things were calm and the boys were all very well mannered and polite, which I am sure they were warned to be, but at Amen all bets were off! There were arms slinging, and dishes passing, and hands flying and, little ole me, coming from a small family of 3 very quiet children - 2 girls and only 1 boy who was 7 years younger than me - well, I had just never experienced such a thing! I got used to it very quick though, which led to many such meals around that very large table.
I remember the first time that I tasted Miss Ursula's eggplant dressing. I had no idea actually what it even was that I was eating, but it was different and delicious and when I later asked and discovered it was eggplant I was stunned. Having never consumed it before, I guess I really didn't know what to expect from an eggplant, but after experiencing it in a few other ways, that eggplant immediately grew on me.
This is often referred to as a dressing because it regularly shows up as a side dish, usually on Sunday, and likely along with a nice roast. Seems pretty fitting as a casserole to me though ... I mean it's got shrimp, crab, eggplant and bread in it - sounds like a casserole to me! You can also make this with just shrimp, though I love the combination of the two personally. Round this out with a green veggie and a mixed salad and you're in business with a mighty fine meal.
Salting is not always necessary, especially if you have an eggplant freshly picked from your own garden. But, sometimes the seeds of an eggplant tend toward the bitter side, and salting helps to draw out those bitter juices.
My husband, who has an open aversion to nearly anything vegetable, and who would never knowingly touch an eggplant, gobbles this up. I just tell him its a seafood casserole, and he thinks it tastes like stuffed crab. I tell him no different.
Recipe: Seafood and Eggplant Dressing©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min |Cook time: 1 hour | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings
- 1 large eggplant, peeled & chopped
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
- 2 slices bacon, cooked but not crisp
- 2 tablespoons of butter, divided
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 medium onion
- 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 pound of shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama) or to taste, optional
- 5-6 slices of white bread
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 pound of crabmeat
- 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
- Italian bread crumbs
Peel the eggplant and cut into chunks. Add kosher salt to a large pot halfway filled with water, stir, add eggplant and let soak in the water for 30 minutes, drain and set aside. Butter or spray a 9 x 9 inch baking dish; set aside. Cook bacon until cooked but not crisp, reserving the bacon drippings. Drain bacon on paper towel and set aside.
Place eggplant back into the pot, and add enough fresh water only to cover the eggplant; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and low simmer for about 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove eggplant to a colander to drain, but reserve the water, setting it aside to cool. To the bacon drippings, add 1 tablespoon of butter. Saute the celery, onion, and bell pepper until softened. Add the garlic and green onion and cook another minute.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, dip the bread into the cooled eggplant water, so that it soaks in some of the water; place it into a colander to drain. Chop the shrimp; add to the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, basil, sage, rosemary and Cajun seasoning. Stir together, remove from the heat.
Use a paper towel to press down on the bread and squeeze out most of the excess water. Squeeze the bread in your hands to remove the rest of the water, then add to the skillet, stirring it in well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Add the beaten egg and half of the Parmesan cheese. Stir well. Add the crabmeat and gently toss. Melt the other tablespoon of butter. Turn the contents of the skillet out into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle top lightly with bread crumbs; drizzle melted butter on top of that.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F, 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until bubbly. Remove and sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
Cook's Note: Double for the holidays. Scoop pulp out of eggplant halves, leaving peeling intact, if using this as a stuffing for the eggplant shells.
Tip: To easily pick out any shell, spread crab on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in a 200 degree oven for 3 minutes. The shell will be visible and easy to pick out.
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