- 2 large eggplants, peeled
- 1 cup plus 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Emeril's Original Essence
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/3 cups milk
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (may substitute other cheeses here, such as Gruyere or brie)
- 1 bay leaf
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3/4 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Cooked pasta, for serving (optional)
Cut each eggplant into thirds lengthwise. Cut a thin flat slice off the curved side so that the eggplant pieces lay level, like little boats. Using a paring knife and spoon or melon baller, scoop out the flesh from the inside of the eggplant, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Set aside. Reserve removed pulp for another purpose or discard.
In a shallow bowl combine 1 cup of the flour with 1 tablespoon of the Essence. In a second shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of Essence. In a third bowl combine the eggs with 1 cup of the milk and 1 teaspoon of Essence. Season the eggplant pirogues with 2 teaspoons of the Essence. Working 1 at a time, dredge the eggplant pirogues in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess, then in the egg wash, and finally in the seasoned bread crumbs. Place eggplant pieces on a wire rack and set aside while you prepare the seafood sauce. Reserve 1/4 cup of the seasoned breadcrumbs and set aside.
In a medium saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of Essence, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the remaining 4 teaspoons of flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 1/3 cups of milk, whisking continuously, and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the cream, return sauce to a boil, and cook until sauce is thickened and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted. Add the bay leaf and set aside, covered.
In a large skillet melt 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter and, when hot, add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink, about 1 minute. Add the crabmeat, 1/2 teaspoon of Essence and 1/4 teaspoon salt, wine and green onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally but being careful not to break up the crabmeat. Add the reserved cheese sauce and stir well to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly to avoid scorching the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat several inches of oil to 350 degrees F.
Fry the eggplants in the hot oil until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper-lined baking sheet. Lay the fried eggplant boats on a baking sheet and spoon about 3/4 cup of the hot seafood filling onto the top of each. In a small bowl combine the grated Parmesan with the 1/4 cup of reserved seasoned bread crumbs. Divide the cheese-crumb mixture evenly among the tops of the filled eggplant pirogues and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until crumbs are lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Note: If a simpler preparation and presentation are desired, eggplant may be sliced 1/2-inch thick and breaded and fried as directed, then served over pasta with the seafood sauce spooned over the top and garnished with the grated Parmesan.
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