Pollo con le Melanzane e i Pomodori Freschi

Fricasseed Chicken with Eggplant and Fresh Tomatoes

August in Italy brings the ripest eggplants and tomatoes and, as a natural consequence, this flavorful way of fricasseeing chicken. When I need fried eggplant, as I do for this recipe, I fry a lot: The quantity of oil required is the same whether you are doing a small amount or a large, and you clean up but once. Fried eggplants keep well in the refrigerator for two or three days and, once they are available, you have a good start on another day’s menu that might include eggplant parmigiana, or an eggplant sauce for fusilli, or even just to enrich a cold meat sandwich.

Ingredients

  • pounds eggplant
  • Salt
  • ½ pound fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • A -pound chicken
  • ¼ pound pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly mashed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 1 tablespoon parsley chopped fine
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. Wash the eggplant in cold water, cut off the green tops, and slice it into strips about 3 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1 inch thick.
  2. Place a pasta colander over a bowl and spread the eggplant strips along the sides of the colander. Sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand for about 1 hour to allow the bitter eggplant juice to drain away.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Wash the tomatoes in cold water and put them into the boiling water. A minute or two after the water returns to a boil, drain the tomatoes. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them up.
  4. Cut up the chicken into 10 pieces: 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 haunches, and 2 pieces each the breast and the back. Wash all the pieces in cold water, including all the giblets, and pat thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.
  5. Chop the pancetta very fine. (A food processor does the job best.)
  6. Choose a lidded sauté pan large enough to accommodate later all the chicken pieces without overlapping. Put in the olive oil, pancetta, and garlic and turn on the heat to medium high, keeping the pan uncovered.
  7. When the garlic becomes colored a pale gold, add the chicken pieces. Brown them well, skin side down first to melt the fat, then on their other side.
  8. Add the wine and sprinkle with salt and several grindings of black pepper. When the wine has evaporated, add the parsley and the cut-up peeled tomatoes, turn the contents of the pan over once or twice with a wooden spoon, then cover the pan and turn down the heat to medium. Turn the chicken pieces over from time to time.
  9. While the chicken cooks, take a frying pan and pour in enough vegetable oil to come ½ inch up the side of the pan. Turn the heat on to high.
  10. Dry the eggplant strips thoroughly with kitchen towels. When the oil is hot enough to make the eggplant sizzle, slip as much of it into the pan at one time as will fit without overlapping or crowding. Fry the eggplant on both sides until it becomes colored a rich gold, then transfer with a slotted spoon or spatula to a platter covered with paper towels to blot.
  11. When the chicken is done—it should be cooked through and through and feel very tender when pricked with a fork—turn off the heat and tilt the pan to spoon off nearly all the clear fat.
  12. Add the fried eggplant, turn on the heat to medium, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Some of the eggplant may dissolve, helping to make the sauce creamier. Transfer to a warm platter with all the pan juices and serve immediately.

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