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Muse’s Eggplant with Seafood (Eggplant Vatican)

Chef Muse Benjamin, while not as well known as the superstar chefs of our day, was one of the most influential chefs in the 1970s through the 1980s. He was active for more than fifty years, until his death about seven years ago. Restaurants whose food he defined included Delmonico, the Quality Inn on Tulane Avenue (when that was a great restaurant), the Red Onion, Frank Occhipinti’s, and a few other places. The chef prepared this dish in honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1987. The dish has a few old-fashioned touches, but nobody’s saying you couldn’t use fresh herbs or leave out the Accent. On the other hand, I thought it would be interesting to give you the recipe as I saw Chef Ben do it.

  • 2 medium, ripe eggplants
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • Stuffing and sauce:
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. powdered thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups oyster water
  • 2 cups shrimp stock
  • 2 cups peeled, deveined medium shrimp
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Accent
  • 2 cups oysters
  • 1/2 lb. white crabmeat

1. Peel the eggplants and slice them in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the center to form a boat with sides about three quarters of an inch thick.

2. Heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir the salt and pepper into the flour and dust the eggplants generously with the mixture. Fry the eggplant boats in the hot oil, two at a time, until golden. Drain on wire racks set on a pan, and keep them warm in a 200-degree oven.

3. In a saucepan, heat the butter until it starts to bubble, then stir in the flour. Make a blond roux, stirring constantly. At the first sign of browning, add the green onions, garlic, and thyme and cook until the onions are soft.

4. Stir in the wine and bring it to a boil. After a minute, add the oyster water and shrimp stock, and stir in completely. Add the shrimp and mushrooms and simmer until the mushrooms are tender.

5. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Add hot sauce, salt, and the Accent and stir well. Add the oysters and crabmeat and heat through.

6. Spoon the sauce into the eggplant boats and serve immediately.

Serves four.

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