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Off the Shelf: Balsamic and Tomato Roast Chicken

A very attractive-looking dish from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf . It tastes great and couldn't be simpler to put together: slice up an eggplant, top the slices with chicken breasts, tomatoes, capers, and a balsamic sauce, and bake for 20 minutes. An excellent idea for a cold, wintry day.

I've made a couple of small changes to the recipe: first, I recommend covering the dish while the chicken is baking. When the breasts were uncovered, the ends dried out before the centers were cooked through. Covering the baking dish with foil helped keep the chicken moist and prevented overcooking. Secondly, rather than mixing the tomatoes up with the sauce, I simply arranged them over the chicken and then topped them with the balsamic sauce mixture. This made it easier to whisk the sauce together, and helped keep the rather fragile tomatoes intact. I've also added the suggestion to baste the finished chicken with the sauce before serving.

Hay recommends using capers that are packed in salt, since their flavor and texture is superior to those packed in brine. If you can find salted capers, definitely use them. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse them before using. If you only have brined capers available (these are the standard capers available at the supermarket), they work fine as well.

I couldn't find whole peeled tomatoes in a 14 or 15-oz. sized can. I bought a 28-oz. can and saved half of the tomatoes for another use.

Hay recommends serving this dish with an arugula salad. I found it paired well with the Garlic Roast Asparagus. It would also be great on a bed of couscous, to absorb the tangy-sweet balsamic sauce.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 thick slices eggplant (about 1/2-inch thick)
4 chicken breast fillets
14 or 15-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and quartered
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed if using salted capers
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup whole basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the eggplant slices in the bottom of a large baking dish and top each slice with a chicken breast. Arrange the quartered tomatoes over the chicken. Combine the capers, vinegar, oil, and sugar and spoon over the tomato-topped chicken. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Spoon up some of the sauce and baste each chicken breast with it, then sprinkle with the basil leaves and grind some fresh pepper over each.



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