Poulet et Aubergines

| October 28, 2006 | 4 Comments
  • 4 Comments

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

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse). After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin's PBS cooking show, "Fast Food, My Way", Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie. In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. "More Fast Food, My Way" should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall. Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!
  • shuna fish lydon

    Dinner with singing friends: priceless

    Dinner with a singing friends* who can’t sing: damaging.
    (*like me.)

    I was recently with a friend and we both said the same thing at the same time, “I used to hate eggplant, now I LOVE it.”

  • wendygee

    Wow! knew about tomatoes being fruit but not eggplant…another fun food fact…love the food history lessons…and the meal looks great…will have to test out the recipe soon!

  • bcinfrance

    This one goes into my recipe file — the eggplant picture is beautiful — and I think it’s time to start making dinner now rather than read all of these great blogs!

  • cucina testa rossa

    shuna – dinner with friends who can’t sing: even more priceless :)
    i {heart} eggplant!

    thanks wendy – i’ll make it for our next potluck!

    bcinfrance – if you decide to make it, i’d love to hear how it turns out.

    * ps: i just got back from the salon du chocolat so check back next saturday for all the mouth-watering pics :)