This recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme’s incredible cookbook, Louisiana Cooking. When I lived in Dallas in the nineties, I frequently used this book. I was especially partial to his panéed chicken and fettucini, spice-coated deep fried chicken thighs over a rich and spicy cream sauce with pasta. The dish blew my socks off.
Everything in the book has butter, fat, lots of oil and usually something gets fried. Plus there’re tons of thrilling Cajun spices thrown in the mix. This is food for the young. You need to be in good health with a fast metabolism to survive it unscathed, at least if you’re dining this way on a regular basis. Otherwise, these succulent recipes fall into my once-in-a-blue-moon culinary category.
Actually, I haven’t cooked from this book in about ten years. When I‘d first met Hegui, I wanted to show off a bit by making an eggplant recipe found in these magical pages. It was sort of like today’s dish: deep fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp. We were in New York then, and it was late July during a heat wave. Only one room of my apartment had air conditioning. So I turned it on full blast, moved the dining table and chairs into the bedroom, and slaved away for a while in the really hot kitchen. I plated everything and it looked perfect! The only problem was the level of spice. Then Hegui didn’t appreciate spicy food at all. I loved (and still love) it. But I think that I made some sort of mistake somewhere along the line. This dish, like the weather, was impossible: way, way too hot. Neither of us could tolerate it. What a disaster!
So I’ve been thinking of that dinner from long ago, wondering about trying again. There are several recipes for stuffed eggplant in Louisiana Cooking. This one with crab and shrimp, called Eggplant Bayou Teche, I don’t think is the same as that one I made before. But like all Prudhomme recipes, it requires lots of oil, shellfish, butter, spices, and the eggplant, of course, gets deep fried. So this is really good and really filling.
I mis-read the directions so failed to peel the eggplant. I don’t think that was such a problem. I used only one pound of shrimp, instead of the recommended 1½ lbs. Also, I had two large eggplants. I think that turned into a lot of food in a single serving, since you really need to give each diner an entire “eggplant canoe” at the table for it to look right. Next time, I’m going to use smaller eggplant and more of them. You’re supposed to add one teaspoon of garlic powder to the spice mix, but I didn’t have any so left it out. I needed more breadcrumbs than recommended, ran out of the spice mix and made my own seafood stock with the shells from the shrimp, the juice from the container of lump crab meat, half an onion and two celery stalks.
We had ours with black beans and rice. There were lots of leftovers.
Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant
3 medium eggplant
½ onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil plus more to fry eggplant
1 cup flour
1½ cups seafood stock
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
¾ cup soy milk
1 large egg
6 tbsp unsalted butter
½ pound lump crab meat
1 pound shrimp
½ cup finely chopped green onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Pastis or similar anise flavored alcohol
For the spice mix:
4½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp white pepper
1½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried basil
Remove woody parts of eggplant, (peel if you wish), cut in halves the long way. Carefully remove the interior of the eggplant so that there is about a quarter inch shell. I used a paring knife and scooped it out with a spoon. Use removed eggplant for another dish. Wrap eggplant shells tightly and refrigerate.
Mix all spice ingredients together and set aside.
In another bowl, mix chopped onion, celery and green pepper together. Set aside.
To make the sauce:
Start by making a roux. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup oil on high heat. Cook until it begins to smoke. Then slowly mix in ¼ cup flour. Stir with a wire whisk for several minutes until the roux becomes medium brown in color. Remove from heat, and stir in the chopped veggies and 1½ tsp of the spice mix. Set aside.
In another saucepan, bring seafood stock to boil. Gradually stir in the roux. Cook on high heat for about five minutes, then simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat and strain the sauce into a bowl. Set aside. Discard the veggies.
To prepare the eggplant boats:
Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add milk and 1 tbsp spice mix. In another bowl, add remaining flour and 1 tbsp spice mix. In a third add breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp spice mix. Heat enough oil in a deep skillet to submerge the eggplant at least half way. Unwrap each eggplant. Rub each with about ½ to ¾ tsp spice mix. Dredge in flour mixture, then milk mixture and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Fry until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Repeat with all eggplant halves.
To prepare seafood fillings:
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium pan. Add crab meat, half of the green onion, the garlic and ¼ tsp spice mix. Cook for a couple minutes then set aside.
Melt remaining butter in a medium pan. Add shrimp, remaining green onion, 1½ tsp spice mix and cook for a minute. Add reserved sauce and Pastis. Cook until shrimp turn pink.
Place eggplant boats on a large heated tray or dish, or you can make individual plates. Fill them first with the crab meat, then with the shrimp and sauce. Enjoy!