Madame Begue’s Eggplant with Rice and Ham
Tujague’s French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year, along with a history of famous guests and dishes. Writer O. Henry and composer Cole Porter visited Tujague’s in the early years when Madame Begue helmed the kitchen. One of the most significant dishes that both Henry and Porter might have enjoyed was Madame Begue’s Eggplant with Rice and Ham, much like a current-day jambalaya.
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup diced ham
1 onion, chopped
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper
Melt the butter in a 3 1/2-quart heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the ham and saute until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes more. Add the eggplant and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to combine. Add the water, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.
Stir well and, if necessary, add more water, cover and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until rice is fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.
Note: To transform this dish into a substantial entree, substitute shrimp stock for the water and toss in a half-pound of raw, peeled shrimp during the last 5 minutes of the cooking process.