post ten: double doozy: chicken and eggplant parmesan

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Parmesano de Pollo y Berenjena 

Since beginning my blog where I have been thoroughly documenting the ins and outs of Peruvian cuisine, I’ve had the idea to make an American meal for my host family here. While brainstorming what type of authentically American food to prepare, the following questions had me lost in a sea of Italian and Mexican recipes: What is American cuisine? What is a traditional American dish? Perú’s cuisine strikes a stark contrast from American in that the plates are ethnically a part of the culture here, dating back to the pre-colonization era. The city where I’m based, Arequipa, is defined by the dishes that correspond to the specific gastronomy here, likewise to other Peruvian cities. By unearthing the roots of Peruvian culture in their cuisine, I’ve come to realize the newness of America, relative to the rest of the world. I grew up in a country made of immigrant heritage, where blends of different foods, traditions, and beliefs are the norm. It’s what makes America, America. Yet, in an attempt to find something truly native to my country, I learned to accept that pieces of other cultures are American.

After this realization, I decided to choose a dish that featured my favorite type of cuisine alongside one that represented a staple of American homes. An italian parmesan was decided upon, followed by the question: Chicken or Eggplant? Anyone who knows me is aware that I like to load on all toppings possible: a sundae means marshmallows, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, bananas, etc. So why not Chicken AND Eggplant? The perfect combination between veggie and meat, sandwiched between tomato sauce and cheese. In plain terms, this dish was one that couldn’t go wrong.

I prepared the Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan with the wonderful Sarah Hamilton, a friend on my program who lives next door with my host aunt and uncle (given this relationship, Sarah is technically mi prima, or cousin!) Two hours of work after a loooong Saturday night paid off with ten plates scraped clean and some even grabbing seconds, an action unheard of in my Peruvian family. The bread-crumb covered chicken and eggplant were a great compliment to the cheesy tomato parmesan, served upon a plate of pasta and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. The whole dish was simple to make and took just under two-hours. However, Sarah and I were more than happy to have each other given the quantity of food we prepared. The leftovers were split between the two houses and I waited anxiously for Monday afternoon when mi empleada, my housekeeper and cook Janet, would have the opportunity to try my cooking. After two and a half months of someone cooking for me, I figured Janet of all the peruvians I knew, deserved to taste the dish. Her words as she took the Parmesan-filled tupperware home struck a chord of mine and are arguably some of the most meaningful I’ve heard here: “Voy a comer en tu nombre” translated to “I’m going to eat this in your name.”

1 large eggplant, peeled

Salt

1 lb chicken cutlets (or chicken breasts sliced thin)

Pepper

4 eggs

2 tablespoons water

3 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano) plus more for garnishing

Olive Oil (you will need to keep adding it to the pan)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

28 oz tomato sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1.Slice eggplant into thick slices lengthwise (not rounds). Season with salt. Place in a colander or on a cooling rack. This draws the excess moisture out the eggplant. Let sit for 30-60 minutes. You will see water come to the surface. Pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Season eggplant slices with pepper. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a bowl or a deep dish mix the eggs with water. In a second bowl or deep dish mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken in the egg, coating both sides. Then dip the chicken in the breadcrumbs, coating on both sides. Do the same with the eggplant.

3. Heat garlic and enough olive oil in a large pan so that it covers the bottom. Add in chicken and brown on both sides. Set to aside. Do the same with the eggplant.

4. Layer a 9 x 13 inch pan with some sauce. Next layer the chicken cutlets. Add more sauce over the chicken. Then sprinkle with some grated and mozzarella cheese. Next layer the eggplant over the chicken cutlets. Add sauce, grated cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.

6. Serve with some pasta and Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of http://www.greateatswithpetes.com/2011/02/chicken-and-eggplant-parmesan/

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