Eggplant and Potato Casserole
The eggplants from our garden are light-purple skinned Italian seed eggplants. They’re just gorgeous, they don’t even look real. I used Adirondack potatoes here (there are Adirondack Blues, which have blue flesh and blue skin, and Adirondack Reds, with red skin and red flesh), but you could use any potato you want—even starchy russets, but peel them first. You can assemble the casserole way ahead and just bake it off whenever you like.
- 4 small to medium Italian eggplants (about 3 pounds total)
- 1 cup EVOO
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- 3 tablespoons EVOO
- 1 large carrot, very finely chopped
- 2 frying peppers (banana or Italian), finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 or 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, very finely chopped
- 3 or 4 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped
- 1 red Fresno chile, very finely chopped
- Fennel pollen or fennel seed
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (28- or 32-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)
- A few fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes
- 1 ball fior di latte mozzarella, cut into half-moons
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Prepare the eggplant: Position one rack in the upper third and one in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Salt the slices and let them drain on paper or kitchen towels for 5 minutes or so.
In a small saucepan, combine the EVOO, garlic, and rosemary and heat to infuse the oil. Lightly brush the eggplant slices with the garlic-rosemary oil (not all the oil gets used; save some for the potatoes) and arrange them on 2 baking sheets. Roast them until nice and golden, 20 to 25 minutes, switching the sheets from one rack to the other halfway through and flipping the eggplant over at the same time.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the EVOO (3 turns of the pan) over medium heat. Add the carrot, frying peppers, onion, celery, garlic, and chile. Season with a little bit of fennel pollen, salt, and pepper. Sweat the vegetables out until they’re very tender. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up a bit, and the basil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the potatoes: Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick rounds so they look like really fat potato chips. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, bring the water to a boil, salt the water, and boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes. Drain them, run cold water over them, then drain them very, very well on a kitchen towel.
In a very large skillet, heat the remainder of that garlic-rosemary oil. Working in batches, add the potatoes and cook until very crispy on both sides. Salt them when they come out of the pan. They should look like fat crispy potato chips.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To assemble the casserole: Spoon 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the sauce into the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Shingle in half of the eggplant and potatoes. Cover with half the mozzarella and a fat handful of Parm. Top with another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sauce (enough to completely cover the first layer), then make another row of eggplant and potato shingled and dot that with just a little bit of sauce (there will probably be only about 1/2 cup left by the time you get to the top layer) Arrange the remaining mozzarella on top and then and another sprinkle of Parm up on top of that.
Bake until it’s bubbling and browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes.