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Asian Eggplant Stuffed with Spicy Minced Chicken

Pine nuts have a buttery texture and a nutty, slightly resinous taste. They add richness and a touch of piney flavor to the sweet, savory and spicy chicken filling. Slender Asian eggplant is milder and more tender than its globe-shaped cousins, making it the perfect canvas for the layers of textures and tastes in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. canola oil 
  • 2 green onions, white and light green portions chopped and green tops sliced 
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 serrano chili, seeded and minced 
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks 
  • 4 Tbs. soy sauce, plus more as needed 
  • 1 Tbs. hoisin sauce 
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts, toasted 
  • 2 Asian eggplant, each about 10 inches long  
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock 
  • 2 Tbs. water 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch 
  • Red pepper flakes for garnish  

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the oil. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the white and light green portions of the green onions, the ginger, garlic and chili. Stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Rinse the pan, wipe dry and set aside.

Put the chicken in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Scrape the chicken into the bowl with the green onion mixture. Add 2 Tbs. of the soy sauce, the hoisin sauce and pine nuts and stir to combine. Trim off the top from each eggplant, then cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a soup spoon, scrape out and discard most of the eggplant flesh, leaving shells a generous 1/4 inch thick. Spoon the chicken mixture into the eggplant halves, dividing it evenly.

Place the fry pan over medium-high heat and warm the remaining 2 Tbs. oil until very hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant halves, stuffing side up, and cook until the undersides are lightly browned, about 1 minute. Pour the broth around the eggplant and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the eggplant halves are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the eggplant to a warmed platter.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbs. soy sauce, the water and cornstarch. Stir the soy sauce-cornstarch mixture into the simmering broth in the pan and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust the seasonings with soy sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the eggplant, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and the sliced green onion tops and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).