We are poised for my favorite season of the year: autumn. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years in schools, but I love back-to-school time – the air is charged with a fresh energy that is more palpable to me than New Year’s Day. The very best part about this period of the year, though, is that so many foods are in season. You can’t shake a squash at Whole Foods without hitting something divine and freshly picked. So though ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes to make year-round, it’s especially rewarding right now, when all the ingredients are so flavorful.
This dish is perfect to usher in fall. You maximize fresh vegetables while enjoying the sensory pleasures of roasting dinner in the oven. It’s a total win. Some ratatouilles require multiple steps and become time-consuming or complicated. Not this one. You throw veggies on the stove for a few minutes and then stick the dish in the oven while you relax with a glass of wine on the patio and absorb the last bits of Indian Summer.
I make this ratatouille with chicken. Obviously, bone-in and skin on chicken breasts are more decadent and delicious, but skinless breasts are the more healthy choice. I used skinless here because we had just returned from a particularly gluttonous vacation, but I do prefer skin-on if I’m going for pure yum. The dish would be awesome with some spicy sausages, too.
- Olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts (bone-in and skin on or boneless; can sub sausage or tofu, or a delectable cheese like romano or ricotta)
- 1 eggplant, cut into chunks
- 1 large or 2 small portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 red pepper (or however much you want, really), sliced
- 1 zucchini, cut into chunks (when I photographed for this post, I used mini yellow zucchini that looked fetching when I was shopping)
- 2-3 cups cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Fresh bay leaf (1 or 2)
- Sea salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
- Gather your ingredients
- Wash and chop your veggies
- Heat about a 1/4 cup of olive oil in an oven-safe skillet on the stove, and throw in your eggplant. I usually add a glug or so of additional olive oil as I cook the eggplant until it is nicely browned. Stir frequently to prevent it sticking to the pan.
- While the eggplant cooks, season chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside until you put the veggie mixture in the oven.
- Add the zucchini, red pepper and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant.
- Stir in the portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Then season the whole thing with sea salt and pepper.
- Now throw the chicken breasts on top of the veggies. They’re still raw and it will feel weird – I know. But it’s going to be ok.
- Stick that dish in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. You want the chicken to be browned on top and, of course, heated to an internal temperature of 165. Go enjoy some wine. I chose one of my favorite reds, Denver’s own Infinite Monkey Theorem Cabernet Franc.
- When cooking time is up, try cranking the oven to broil for just 2 minutes or so to really crisp and brown the chicken and veggies. You won’t regret it! Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, then serve.