Since I’m still on a travel high from France, my head immediately turned to the idea of a ratatouille, a Provençal dish of vegetables that has no “real” recipe (though many may argue that their family’s version is un vrai recette). Well, I am not from the South of France, nor have I had an authentic version made by someone’s grandmother in Saint Remy for comparison, so my version is definitely a dish based on the ingredients that most Provençal can at least agree are in a proper ratatouille.
Bon. Let’s begin, shall we?
Chicken Ratatouille Stew
1 whole chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces (bone-in or boneless, your choice)
6 medium tomatoes, quartered
4 medium zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
1 medium size bell pepper (I use red)
1 large eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped finely (optional)
1/2 cup of fresh basil, julienned
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped finely
a few tablespoons of water or chicken broth
shredded or grated parmesan cheese
In a heavy bottomed pot (I use a Le Creuset dutch oven), heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and put skin side down in the oil. Do not move the chicken for at least 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and brown on the other side. Once the chicken is browned, remove from pot and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pot. Add your garlic and the thyme and stir, careful not to burn the garlic. At this point you could add the optional onions (I often omit them because I end up picking around my onions). Add the tomatoes and stir, then cover. The tomatoes will release a lot of liquid, which is normal.
Next, add the eggplant and peppers, stir while the vegetables soften a bit, then add the chicken back with the additional water or chicken stock. Let simmer for another 10 minutes or so to finish cooking the chicken through. Lastly, add the zucchini. You want to keep simmering this until the zucchini is soft but still retains some color. Season with salt & pepper. Once the stew has thickened up a little, take it off the stove, and mix in the fresh basil. Ladle the vegetables into individual bowls, and top with piece of chicken and a bit of Parmesan cheese.
Serve with warm, crusty bread.