Aubergines à la Bonifacienne (Eggplant Bonifacio)

Bonifacio is the most beautiful town on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. It is magnificently situated on a promontory of the limestone coast of southern Corsica. We were there about a month ago, and everywhere you looked restaurants were offering aubergines à la Bonifacienne. This is the local way to prepare eggplant: the eggplant is boiled, the flesh is scooped out and mixed with soaked bread, eggs, garlic, basil, and cheese. This mixture is stuffed back into the skin, and it is then fried in olive oil on both sides. My version is lighter, as I baked it in the oven instead. The origin of this dish, as with many traditional recipes, is to use up leftover bread and cheese. This vegetarian dish is very tasty and is served as a main course rather than a side.

Of course the best cheese for this is sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica like tomme de corse or brocciu passu. Since I did not bring cheese from Corsica and couldn’t find it here, I substituted with the closest I had in my refrigerator to brocciu passu, which was ricotta salata from Sicily. But pecorino or even parmigiano reggiano would also work.

Ingredients

For 2 servings as a main course

2 eggplants, about 700 grams (1.5 lbs)

70 grams (2.5 oz) stale white bread without crust

about 250 ml (1 cup) milk (or water)

70 grams (2.5 oz) grated sheep’s milk cheese (preferably tomme de corse)

1 Tbsp finely sliced basil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Remove the crusts from the bread. You should end up with about 70 grams after removing the crust.

Chop the bread, put it in a bowl, and cover it with milk (or water).

Allow the bread to soften in the milk while you prepare the rest.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the eggplant, cut in half lengthwise. I left on the green part for decorative purposes. Boil the eggplant for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes the eggplant should be soft. Take it out of the pan and allow to drain and cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a spoon, trying to keep the skin whole.

Keep going until you have emptied all of the eggplants. Allow the flesh to drain and reserve the empty skins.

Chop the eggplant flesh.

Squeeze the milk out of the bread.

Whisk 2 eggs in a large bowl.

Add the eggplant flesh, the bread, 70 grams of grated cheese, and a minced clove of garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Mix with a spoon…

…until the mixture is homogeneous. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (If you are worried about eating raw egg, you could nuke a bit of the mixture in a small bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds or so.)

Arrange the empty eggplant skins on a baking sheet lined with oven paper. Fill the skins with the mixture.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C/350F until the tops are golden brown and the filling is just cooked but still moist.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wine pairing

This is great with a Sciaccarello, the most popular grape variety on Corse that is known as Mammolo in Tuscany, either as a medium-bodied slightly chilled red or as a dry rosé.

Good alternatives would be a lighter style Chianti (red) or a rosé from Provence.

Flashback

DSC09813
Doesn’t this cod, carrot and lemon risotto have a great color? I had some carrots, some fish stock, and some canned tomatoes I needed to use up, and thus this risotto was born. The cod was a nice addition that I bought especially for the dish. The flavor combination of carrot with lemon and cod works well, although it doesn’t have a pronounced carrot taste if that is what you’re looking for. I’d say adding the tomatoes is optional. It deepens the color and adds some umami, but is not really necessary. I used it because it needed to be used up. The cod is cooked in the hot risotto while it rests. That way, the cod is tender and juicy instead of dry and flaky. The carrots are steamed above the fish stock, so any flavor leaking from the carrots will end up in the risotto anyway.

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10 thoughts on “Aubergines à la Bonifacienne (Eggplant Bonifacio)

  1. You promised us some of your holiday recipes and I am delighted to see this one, especially since somehow I have so far bypassed historic Corsica in my travels. Love stuffed eggplant, make one dish rather similarly, so have to fish out the recipe and compare . . . funny, have never thought to serve such at room temperature: shall try soonest . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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