Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan: The Meal That Christened My Kitchen

It's official: I have my very own kitchen (okay, that I share with a roommate)! The moving process, which took place all this past week, is to blame for my all-too convincing disappearing act, but now I am back and cooking up a storm in my teensy tiny kitchen. It also happened to be my birthday last week, and while I wanted to write an entry about all of the delicious food made for that, pictures were taken on a family member's camera and have not made their way onto a computer. So, more on that later.

Instead, I come bearing photos and ingredients for the meal that christened my new (old and not at all state of the art) kitchen. For my first night here, I decided to make a batch of chicken and eggplant parmesan. My game plan is to cook in bulk (i.e., for 2-4 people instead of just little ole' me) and freeze/reuse all of the extras. That way, when I get home from class at 5pm, I'll have a quick and easy option. Kind of like my own, homemade tv dinners! The chicken and eggplant parmesan turned out well, although - in keeping with it being a recipe that I thought up dans ma tete - it can definitely use some polishing. The sauce came out too thin, the eggplant got a little dried out, and I think a little bit more layering action would keep the whole thing together as opposed to being several ingredients sitting on top of one another. Still, a very delicious and fairly easy recipe, and I am looking forward to some chicken and eggplant parm sandwiches later on in the week.

Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan
Yield: 4-6 servings
The Ingredients
3-4 chicken breasts (approx. 1 1/2 lb.)
3/4 - 1 C tomato sauce (I used this recipe, but left out the spicy components to try to simplify my grocery bill*)
1 medium or 1/2 large eggplant
1 C spinach
3/4 - 1 C mozzarella cheese
1/4 - 1/3 C parmesan cheese

The Method
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you wash and prep your ingredients.
2. Pour 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a glass baking dish; mine was 8x8 because that's all I have here.
3. Place the chicken on top and pour the remaining sauce over that.
4. Cook the chicken in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, slice the eggplant into roughly 1/4" slices (or however thick you like).
6. Remove the chicken from the oven and spread the eggplant slices in a single layer over the chicken.
7. Return to the oven and bake until the eggplant and chicken are both almost completely cooked, approx. 10 min. I found that flipping my eggplant slices halfway through helped.
8. Finally, add a layer of spinach and a layer of cheese to the chicken and return to the oven until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted, roughly 5 minutes.

I just ate this as is to save room for dessert (you can see where my priorities lie), but I considered pairing it with a traditional spaghetti or side salad for a more filling meal.

Here are a few changes that I might make next time:
-Have thinner slices of chicken, and layer it in a lasagna type of way with the eggplant, spinach, and sauce to keep everything together.
-Thicken the sauce somehow, either by trying a different recipe or adding more tomato paste.

*Note: The sauce recipe makes a whole lot of sauce. I poured the extra into ice cube trays to freeze in 1 Tbsp. portions so that I can pull more out as needed. The extras only took up 1 1/2 trays for me once I was done with what I wanted to use in the recipe.

I think this has all of the same components of both a chicken and an eggplant parmesan, and while it may be a work in progress aesthetically, the flavor and textures are there. There's just enough cheese to make it gooey and savory without completely overwhelming the dish, and combining the eggplant with the chicken adds a nice flavor duo that you don't seem to see all that often. Nutritionally, eggplant isn't a good vegetarian option for the center of a meal, at least in terms of protein and those "good" carbohydrates. Plus, it's low in calories, so adding it to the chicken doesn't make this a heavy dish by any means.

Hopefully I can get a hold of those birthday dessert pictures so that I can share those recipes with you, as well. In the meantime, not only do I still have backlogged recipes from this summer, but now that I have my own place, I should be doing a whole lot more cooking than I used to. I'm pretty excited now, but I have a feeling that coming home from a day of classes and having to make dinner is going to get old pretty quickly...

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