The Barefoot Contessa never lets me down. I have all of her cookbooks and her recipes are great. Even cutting back on the rich ingredients I have had great luck with her recipes. I found this recipe in her Barefoot in Paris book. It is excellent. And I think it would be great served with grilled chicken.
But pretty much anything hidden below the conncoction of ricotta cheese, parmesan, and marinara sauce, all toasty and bubbly on top, would taste good.
Good olive oil, for frying (this always cracks me up--"good olive oil")
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.
Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.
Note: I cooked the eggplant in a very seasoned pan and did not need to use much olive oil. I also substituted regular milk for the half and half. And I made one gratin not two.