Stuffed Eggplant a la Creole

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter (divided)
1 large clove garlic
2 medium eggplants (about 3/4 pound each)
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 medium ripe tomato, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped or 2 canned tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in a pepper mill
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Put onion and 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and heat to medium high. Sauté, tossing and stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant but not in the least colored, about 1 minute more. Turn off heat.

Split eggplants lengthwise and scoop out inner flesh, leaving a shell about 1/2 inch thick on all sides. Chop pulp and add to skillet with onion and garlic. Add soft bread crumbs, tomato, thyme and parsley. Season liberally with healthy pinch of salt, a small pinch of cayenne and a few grindings of black pepper. Stir until well mixed.

Lightly butter a casserole that holds the eggplant halves in one layer. Put in the shells and divide stuffing among them.

Wipe out pan in which onions were cooked and put in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Place over medium heat. When butter is just melted, turn off heat and add dry bread crumbs. Stir until butter is evenly absorbed into crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs over eggplant halves until evenly coated and place casserole in upper one-third of oven. Bake until crumbs are browned and filling is heated through and bubbly, about half an hour.

Makes 4 servings.

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