This dish came about after brainstorming with “The Dragon” on our recent trip to Chicago. I had prepared as part of the main course a braised lamb in tomato sauce on a bed of smoked eggplant purée. Hunkar Begendi for those who know Istanbul-Constantinople food.
The key to pulling off this dish is getting the flesh of the eggplant to be smoky and that’s done by charring and blackening the flesh on a charcoal or gas grill. The oven won’t give you that smokey flavour. A must.
Once you have the charred eggplants, this dish is straightforward – mashed eggplant purée is mixed into a basic Bechamel, cheeses are added and some chives and roasted red peppers for colour.
This is a wonderful take on Macaroni and Cheese and one that I’ll make over and over. I love all things smoked and the though of eggplant blended into my Mac n’ Cheese puts a smile on my face. Your belly will thank you too!
Smoked Eggplant Macaroni & Cheese
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 roasted red pepper, skins peeled, seeded and diced
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cups whole milk, warm
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 cup sharp grated cheese (I used Kefalograviera)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
pre-heated 450F oven
- Place a medium pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and stir. Boil for about 6 minutes, drain (add some oil and toss to keep from clumping) and reserve in a buttered deep casserole dish.
- To a medium pot, add the butter over medium heat then the onions and sweat for 5-6 minutes. Add the flour and stir for a minute then add the milk, 1/2 cup and stir in. Add the remaining milk 1/2 cup at a time until thick.
- Meanwhile, cut your eggplant lengthwise in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon (discard skins) and mash up with a fork. Add to Bechamel and stir in then add the cream cheese, stir in then the grated cheese.
- Add the diced red pepper, chives and stir in. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and reserve.
- Add the smoked eggplant mixture to the pasta and toss to incorporate. Top with breadcrumbs and paprika and place in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until top is just golden. Take out of the oven and allow 10 minutes to cool.
- Divide and serve with a Chatzimihalis Sauvignon Blanc.
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