OH. SO. GOOD.
Many years ago in Texas there was a cafeteria chain called Wyatt’s. It was wonderful—great food, excellent quality, low prices (which probably explains why they went out of business). When I was young and Dad travelled a lot, Mom would take us there once or twice a week. And I got the same thing, every single time—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, slightly sweet, cheesy, and just so good you wanted to wriggle naked in it! (But it was served hot and that’d burn your “gingerbread,” so…..)
I thought the recipe was lost, but recently, I came across their original recipe in my grandmother’s recipe box, and I’ve updated it just a bit. The original recipe used Wyatt’s day-old rolls, which were a little sweet, so I’ve updated it using King’s Hawaiian Rolls and simplified the rest of the ingredients. And it’s still awesome. No, that’s a soft-sell. To be honest it’s just freakin’ wonderful. Your family will love it as much as mine does!
- 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 (just turn up the oven you used for the bread. Saving energy = saving money!)
- Melt the butter in a pan, and slowly sauté 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 the cafeteria where this dish got its start!
(note: freezes well BEFORE cooking.)