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Eggplant, Sweet Pepper, and Bechamel Gratin {Gluten-Free}

A rich and creamy eggplant gratin recipe brimming with the flavors of late summer: sweet peppers, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, and tender eggplant all smothered in a Parmesan and thyme-kissed bechamel.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8 small but rich servings
Author: The Bojon Gourmet

Ingredients

For the roasted garlic:

  • 1 large head garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • big pinch salt
  • good grind pepper

For the eggplant:

  • 3 1/2 pounds globe eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1" thick rounds
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

For the peppers:

  • 1 pound Jimmy Nardello peppers (or other sweet red pepper such as bell or gypsy), stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, sliced fairly thinly
  • 2 large cipollini onions (or 1 large yellow onion), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

Bechamel:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons sweet white rice flour , (or all-purpose wheat flour if not gluten-free)
  • cloves from the roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus another 1/2 cup for the top of the gratin , (4 ounces / 110 grams total)

Instructions

Roast the garlic:

  • Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.
  • Cut the top off the garlic head, exposing the cloves. Place the head cutside-up in a small baking dish and drizzle with the oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until deeply golden, 35-45 minutes. Let cool completely. When cool, squeeze the cloves out and into a small bowl.

Prepare the eggplant:

  • Divide the eggplant slices between two rimmed baking sheets and drizzle each with half of the oil, salt and pepper. Toss the eggplant slices to coat them as much as possible; there won't be enough oil to coat each piece, but it will cook up fine anyway. Roast the eggplant at 400ºF until golden and tender but still holding a shape, 30-40 minutes, turning the eggplant after about 20 minutes when the bottoms are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Prepare the peppers:

  • Over a medium flame, heat the oil in a 10" oven-proof skillet with 2-inch high sides (or another wide skillet if you plan to bake this in a lasagna pan instead). Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, 5-10 minutes. Add the peppers, thyme, salt, and wine. Increase the heat to bring the pan to a simmer, then cover partially, lower the heat, and simmer until the peppers are very tender and the pan is mostly dry, 30-40 minutes.

Make the bechamel:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over a medium flame. Work in the flour until a paste forms, then add the roasted garlic. Cook, stirring and mashing, for a few minutes, then gradually work in the milk. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook the bechamel, stirring frequently to prevent clumping or scorching, until it comes to a boil, 5-10 minutes. It will be very thick and gloopy. Let it boil for 1 minute (this cooks the starches in the flouthen remove from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of parmesan.

Assemble the gratin:

  • Smooth the pepper mixture into an even layer in the skillet (or the bottom of a 9x12" lasagna pan), and spread half of the bechamel on top. Arrange the eggplant slices in concentric circles over the bechamel, using wider slices on the outside and small ones on the inside. Spread the eggplant with the remaining bechamel, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan.
  • Bake the gratin at 400ºF on the upper rack until bubbling and deep golden, 35-45 minutes. The pan will be very full, so place a rimmed baking pan underneath it to catch any drips if needed.
  • Let the gratin cool and settle for at least 15 minutes, then scoop out onto plates and serve warm or at room temperature. It will be quite gooey when hot, but will firm up as it cools. Leftovers keep well, refrigerated airtight, for up to 5 days. (Don't store it in the cast iron pan as it will remove the seasoning and pick up off flavors.)

Notes

I make this rich, late-summer gratin using small, fresh globe eggplant and super sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers. Jimmy Nardellos are long, slender, and bright red. They look like they should be spicy, but are actually the sweetest pepper there is, with a thin skin that makes them perfect for sauteing. Gypsy or bell peppers can be used in their place.
If using larger, older eggplant, you'll want to sprinkle the slices with a tablespoon or two of salt and let them drain in a colander to sweat out the bitterness. Rinse these and pat them dry before proceeding with the recipe. I like to leave the skin on the eggplants (particularly when using fresh, small, in season specimens) but feel free to peel it if you prefer.
Traditional gratins usually have butter-moistened bread crumbs on top, which I decided to forgo, but you could certainly add some, tossed with the parmesan, if you were feeling it.
We make this a meal with a green salad, a glass of white wine, and some crusty bread to dip into the gooey sauce. Leftovers are fabulous warmed and piled on a piece of crusty toast. This amount fits perfectly in a 10" cast iron skillet, but could also be layered and baked in a 9x12" lasagna pan.
Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.

Nutrition

Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 789mg | Potassium: 772mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 2290IU | Vitamin C: 81.8mg | Calcium: 280mg | Iron: 1.3mg
Making this? I'd love to see!Tag your snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet!