Chicken and Eggplant Stew with Grilled Country Bread Recipe
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried red chile flakes
½ of a large onion, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
3 small Italian eggplants or 2 medium-sized ones, cut into ½-inch rounds
One 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, preferably San Marzano
¼ cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 medium-sized boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 loaf of crusty country bread, thickly sliced
Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
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This re-invented — and healthier version of — chicken and eggplant parm is wonderful spooned over crusty and crispy bread that softens as it soaks in the flavorful tomato sauce.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, adding a pinch of red chile flakes. When hot, add the onions and the tumeric, if using, and cook until softened, about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, turn on the broiler and place the eggplant rounds on 1-2 aluminum-covered baking trays or as needed for them not to overlap too much. Watch closely and when lightly golden, turn over and broil until the same color on the other side, then remove from oven, usually about 1-2 minutes per side (make sure to pay attention as this step differs for every eggplant depending how much moisture it has).
When the onions are ready, add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high, allowing the tomatoes to soften for 2-3 minutes, then gently break them up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the water and season with salt and pepper (and more chile flakes if desired). Layer in the eggplant and gently stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. In another pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken in batches, if necessary, and cook until lightly golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Then cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes.
After the tomato and eggplant mixture has cooked for 30 minutes, add the chicken and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally and re-seasoning as needed, for another 15-20 minutes.
5 minutes before the dish is ready, toast the bread, drizzling with a little olive oil if desired. In separate plates, serve a heaping spoonful over the bread and top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.