Eet's a peasant dish...
I always love how movies and television open us all up to new dishes and culinary cultures we might not have seen before. French cuisine, while noted highly and raved about, has always been a hit-or-miss thing with me. I’ve eaten twice in French restaurants, only to end up sick later. However, I haven’t given up on trying new things.
When Disney released the animated movie Ratatouille back in 2007, millions fell in love with Remy and his story of becoming the top chef in Paris. The dish he created to win over the harsh critic Anton Ego made many out on the internet wonder what ratatouille is and how you make it. Reminds me of the bruschetta in Julie and Julia.
The dish itself dates further back to the existence of the Occitania region in the land around the border between France and Spain. Very Mediterranean in nature, ratatouille’s origin has been traced to the city of Nice in the Provence region of France, right by the sea. Noted mainly as a summer vegetable stew, I find it a wonderful healthy dish for those looking to loose weight while not compromising on flavor.
In the animated movie, Remy ended up making a variation of ratatouille called confit byaldi. French chef Michel Guérard actually created the real-life version of the dish with the mandoline-sliced vegetables, sauce, and vinaigrette on the plate. My attempts were more on the traditional recipe, but I did try slicing the vegetables with a mandoline. I’d probably recommend just cutting the pieces into chunks and keeping things more that way.
Here’s what I did:
- 1 eggplant, cubed
- 2 zucchini, cubed
- 2 yellow squash, cubed
- 2 green peppers, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 4 plum tomatoes, seeds and innards removed.
- 1 Spanish onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp of parsley
- 1 tsp of thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the tomato into a food processor or blender and puree it. Season the puree with the garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.
- In a frying pan, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil and begin to saute the onion until golden and soft. Set aside.
- Saute the eggplant and then set aside. Do the same with the zucchini, then squash, then peppers. Set all aside and try to keep separated. Add more olive oil to the pan as needed.
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- In a baking dish, pour inside the seasoned tomato puree as a bottom layer.
- Place the onion and peppers on top of the puree as another layer.
- Lay in the zucchini and squash as two more layers. Add the bay leaf as well.
- Place the eggplant as the top layer.
- Cover the dish and place into the oven for 30-45 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf before serving.
This dish ends up making a lot of liquid, and I’ve looked for means to cut it down. I will end up spooning the ratatouille with a strainer ladle and even at times drain out some of the liquid that forms as it sits in the refrigerator as leftovers. If you like the liquid, then good for you. I had one colleague even drain it out and cook it with a little corn starch into a nice gravy. I more preferred just the vegetables.
This dish actually gets better tasting as leftovers. I’m not kidding, and it’s been noted in other articles about ratatouille. Even today I ate week-old ratatouille with my lunch and it was delicious.
If you’re going to attempt to make confit byaldi, then I would suggest you puree the onion, tomato, seasonings, and peppers together and cook them into a thicker sauce. Use that as the bottom layer with the sliced vegetables on top. Do not saute the vegetables if you’re looking to do this, but keep them raw and slow cook them in the oven at 275º-300º. Serve the dish with a drizzling of a vinaigrette sauce as shown in that other recipe.
Some have mentioned I should add potatoes, but that reminds me more of the Greek dish briam, which I will make at another time and post here.
Ratatouille is meant to be served as side dish, but you can also serve it as a main dish with some good bread and perhaps a small cheese plate. Another suggestion is to sprinkle some grated cheese on top.