Many years ago in Texas there was a cafeteria chain called Wyatt’s. It was wonderful—great food, great quality, low prices (which probably explains why they went out of business). When I was young and Dad travelled every week, Mom would take us there once or twice a week. And I got the same thing, every single week—two devilled eggs, a blueberry muffin, chicken-fried steak, and Wyatt’s signature Eggplant Casserole. That casserole was AMAZEBALLS. You never even really knew eggplant was in it (so if you’re not an eggplant fan, try this anyway!). It was rich, bready, cheesey, and just so good you wanted to wriggle naked in it! (But then you wouldn’t want to eat it, so…..)
But recently, I came across their original recipe and I’ve updated it. The original was based on Wyatt’s day-old rolls, which were a little sweet, so I’ve updated and simplified the ingredients. And it’s still awesome. SO many of my relatives are going to love this—and it’s just freakin’ wonderful.
- 1 ½ lb eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (yes, please, PEEL it!)
- 1⁄2 lb King’s Hawaiian Bread, dried or toasted and chopped fine
- 1 cup canned evaporated milk
- 1⁄4 cup butter, melted
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped green pepper
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped celery
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- ½ cup chopped pimiento (finely chopped jarred roasted red bell pepper works just as well)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried sage
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- Soak eggplant pieces in salted water for 4 hours if you can. If you don’t have time, add a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe.
- Chop the King’s Hawaiian Bread and leave it out overnight to dry or put it on a pan in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You want to dry it—not toast it!
- Simmer the cubed eggplant in water until tender. If you didn’t salt the eggplant beforehand, salt the water you’re simmering in. If you did salt and soak the eggplant, no salt in the water is necessary.
- Soak the dried King’s Bread in the milk.
- Preheat oven to 350 (use the one you used for the bread. Saving energy = saving money!)
- Melt the butter in a pan, and slowly saute the onions, celery, and pepper (the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Cajun cooking!) until they’re tender, about 12 minutes.
- Lightly beat the eggs.
- Mix the eggplant *with* any un-absorbed milk, sautéed vegetables, eggs, and spices in a buttered or greased 9 X 13 casserole (or any 2 quart or larger) dish.
- Cover with foil, and put into pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cover with the wonderful cheeeeeese. Return, uncovered, to oven for 10 minutes.
- When done, remove and either serve to your family or take down to the church social and see who remembers where this recipe came from!
(note: freezes well BEFORE cooking.)