Inspiration

One of the best meals I had in Paris was at Le Café des Musées in the Marais.

Café des Musées in the Marais.

I had been there the year before with my daughter and, sitting at the wide-open, full-length windows, we’d spotted about four or five beagles walking by with their owners. I had to go back to see if my luck would hold.

Hélas, no beagles, but I had a lovely dinner sitting at the “garconniere,” the table for singletons. Henry had left a couple days earlier, so I was on my own. I started with a glass of Champagne, of course, then had a great green bean salad. For my main course I ordered the gratin d’aubergines avec agneau.

Gratin d'aubergines avec agneau at Le Café des Musées.

It was a gratin of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes with nuggets of succulent lamb mixed in. Not too meaty. Just right. It was rich and tomato-y, accented with cardamom. I was craving it when I returned to Santa Monica.

A bounty of super-sweet, ready-to-rot tomatoes was awaiting me when I got back from my trip, so I used them to make a simple tomato sauce–sautéed onions, garlic, bouquet garni and basil–for my gratin. I didn’t have any eggplant in the garden (darn!) so we bought huge globe eggplants at the market. Gorgeous. Because my dear daughter kind of insists on flank steak on Sundays (plus I didn’t have any precooked lamb on hand), no meat would go into my vegetarian gratin.

End-of-season tomato sauce.

As the tomato sauce was simmering, I tried a new technique (for me, anyway) for getting rid of the bitterness that sometimes mars the deliciousness of the eggplants. Instead of salting the slices then rinsing them, I boiled them for a couple of minutes in salted water. I think Julia Child recommended that and I think it worked.

Boiling eggplant slices.

Next, I dried them, fried them in olive oil, then layered them with the tomato sauce.

Assembling the gratin.

I topped it all with homemade breadcrumbs that I keep in the freezer. When it came out, it was golden brown and the tomato sauce was bubbling.

Le gratin.

It was delicious, great as a side dish and will be great as a main course.

Note: I was hoping my dear husband, who is not a fan of the eggplant (or the tomato, for that matter), would come around with this fantastic dish. As it turns out, I will be enjoying leftovers on my own for some time to come. (I’ll pop some individual portions into the freezer.) His loss!

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About cdhla

I'm a former editor at several lifestyle magazines who's been freelancing since moving from NYC to LA. I call my blog The Chipped Platter to remind us that chips are better than perfection. The platter in question, a round one made by Gien, has traveled the world with me, visited with friends and family, celebrated milestones, and offered sustenance. My cherished Chipped Platter is part of the family. (I love my chipped plates, too!) On this blog, I'll be sharing my adventures of cooking for my family and friends, venturing out into restaurants and learning tips from people I meet. Come along!
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