Monsieur Poulet at the Nice farmers market. The colors of the feathers were the most vibrant I’d even seen. I never thought of a chicken as beautiful until I saw this one. And some shiny purple-striped eggplant at the Maubert-Mutualite farmers market just down the street.
Who knew this beautiful purple globe could be the cause of so much controversy? Male or female? Innie or outie? Since eggplant is feminine in French, as in la jolie aubergine, I assumed it was female however I was mistaken. Dismissed as folk lore and old wives tales, the eggplant is neither male nor female but is actually a member of the nightshade family which includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes and grows like tomatoes, hanging from the vines. It is often confused as a vegetable but it is actually a fruit – specifically a berry. Once again, who knew? Not this little cook, that’s for sure.
The eggplant, aubergine in French and melanzane in Italian, grew wild in India and Sri Lanka and migrated to Africa then into Italy in the early Middle Ages where it became a staple of the Italian diet. Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing eggplants to North America having experimented with many varieties in his Monticello gardens.
Eggplants now blossom into a cornucopia of colors including deep purple, lavender, striped lavender-white, jade green, orange, yellow and white. They are in season from August through October however can usually be purchased year round. Select an eggplant that is firm, smooth and unblemished.
A myriad of dishes that span the globe can be created with eggplants. It’s a natural combined with tomatoes and onions as in the French ratatouille. Also popular is the Levantine moussaka, Middle Eastern baba ghanouj and as an Indian sauce mixed with yoghurt.
For this dinner, my flatmate Pierre naturally took the ratatouille bent and decided to stew it with chicken. The results were spectacular as usual. My apologies, I don’t have any charming stories of picking eggplants from his family farm, as I did with his fabulous figs, but we had fun, none the less and that is what it’s all about, n’est-ce pas?
Poulet aux Aubergines
1. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes, drizzle with olive oil, roast in 400F oven til starting to brown.
2. Brown the chicken on all sides, then set aside. Drain off all but about 1 tbsp oil.
3. Chop garlic, shallots.
4. Cook onions and garlic til translucent in pan from chicken. Add cumin, curry.
5. Toss in tumeric (curcumin in French). I love this action shot
6. Add a dash of cayenne and combine.
7. Add 4 tomatoes cut into 1/8s.
8.Cut up the remaining 4 tomatoes and blend.
9. Add to pan with spices and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for about 30 minutes. If it gets too thick reduce the heat and add in small increments water or chicken broth.
sauce simmering, browned chicken, cubed eggplant
10. Add chicken back into pot.
11. Add the roasted eggplant to the pot.
13. When chicken is done, make couscous.
14. Spoon the chicken and eggplant over a bed of couscous.
Pierre plating, me watching with strawberry martini in hand Bon appetit!
Caveat emptor…if you eat this, you might find yourself bursting into song.
Flora and Pierre before eating eggplant chicken…
Flora and Pierre after eating eggplant chicken
Three chickens – 45 euros
Four eggplants – 10,50 euros
Dinner with singing friends – priceless