Monday, December 7, 2009

Eggplant Josephine

Eggplant Josephine, a popular dish at the old White Pillars restaurant, made from slices of eggplant, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried, topped with crabmeat, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked.
Eggplant Josephine, a popular dish at the old White Pillars restaurant, made from slices of eggplant, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried, topped with crabmeat, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked.

Eggplant Josephine

Eggplant Josephine, sort of a Deep South coastal seafood take on Eggplant Parmesan, was a pretty famous dish when I was growing up. It was a signature dish at the White Pillars, a very popular local restaurant owned by the Mladinich family of Biloxi. Housed in an old 1919 white mansion located at the foot of Rodenburg Avenue right on the beach at Highway 90, owned originally by Dr. and Mrs. H. M. Folkes, and then called Gunston Hall, the restaurant was a beautiful and elegant structure.

Photo Credit

I don't remember why or when it was that White Pillars closed, though I do want to say that it must've been somewhere in the late 70s. The boarded up building, still standing at the time of Hurricane Katrina, was extensively damaged by that storm, but there was some talk about a renaissance shortly thereafter and many years later the process began.

I am happy to say that The White Pillars has finally reopened!


One of the signature dishes at The White Pillars was called Eggplant Josephine - a layered mixture of eggplant, lump crab, marinara sauce, and cheese, topped with Hollandaise sauce - and while it has been at least 30 years since that dish was last served at The White Pillars, just the mention of it invokes fond memories of special occasion dinners at The White Pillars Restaurant for many people. They only recently got a version of Eggplant Josephine back on the menu, since they now focus on locally sourced, fresh ingredients.

I don't know how it came to be named Eggplant Josephine, though I am certain there must be a story there somewhere, but the dish is a little bit of a glamorized twist on classic Eggplant Parmesan in my opinion. Like it, there is a layer of eggplant that has been dredged in a coating and fried, but that eggplant is then topped with a layer of fresh, lump crabmeat, then marinara sauce, and finally topped with cheese.

On September 20, 1989, after many requests, the Sun Herald published a recipe called Eggplant Josephine, shown below.


The recipe was submitted to them by Dr. Jim Culveyhouse of Gulfport, who when asked how he obtained the sought-after recipe, replied "don't ask." This is the Eggplant Josephine recipe that is floating around the internet to this day. This recipe is also featured in the cookbook, Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, being credited to the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper in 2004. I have no idea if either recipe is anything close to being authentic to the original, but I did use that as a guideline for my version, which I call 'Eggplant Josephine, My Way.'

The hardest part of this recipe is picking through the fresh crabmeat to find those stray pieces of shell and cartilage. One tip to help remedy that, is to spread the crabmeat out on a baking sheet, and run it in a 200 degree oven for about 2 or 3 minutes. The cartilage with turn from clear to opaque and will be easier to spot and pull out.

Since I was feeling a bit under the weather when I made this and this was my first time ever making this dish, I didn't bother with cooking either the pasta or the hollandaise sauce and just ate mine plain this time. By the way, the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sauterne white wine, but since I don't cook with alcohol much, I substituted chicken broth.


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Eggplant Josephine, a popular dish at the old White Pillars restaurant, made from slices of eggplant, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried, topped with crabmeat, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked.
Posted by on December 7, 2009

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