Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Monday, November 5th, 2007.)
Nippy weather calls for something hearty to warm both body and soul. Here in Southern California, we're blessed with long growing seasons and an abundance of delightfully fresh produce. Ratatouille, originally a rustic French summer dish of stewed vegetables, is perfect for combating the autumn chill.
Like most foodies, I was an instant fan of the Disney Pixar film Ratatouille. The schmaltzy life-lessons for children aside, the attention to every cooking detail fascinated me. Famed chef Thomas Keller created a special version of the classic confit byaldi, a reinterpretation of ratatouille invented by French chef Michel Guérard in the '70s, just for the movie. To this day, Pixar's mouth-watering depiction of the dish is still a topic of conversation amongst food aficionados.
Inspired, I decided to try my own hand at making confit byaldi. I researched a number of ratatouille and confit byaldi recipes, including the recipe from the film. After playing around with the ingredients, temperature, and cooking times, I created this recipe for my perfect confit byaldi. I'm no Thomas Keller, but this is my favorite way of making ratatouille. Enjoy!
Ratatouille (Confit Byaldi)
1 chef's knife, Santouku knife, or Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 mixing bowl
1 large frying pan or sauté pan with fitted lid
1 blender or food processor
1 fine mesh sieve
1 12-inch casserole dish or 8x8-inch baking dish with at least 1 inch sides
1 BBQ lighter or long match
2 cups of dry red wine
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Japanese eggplant (aubergine)
1 medium carrot
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
1 cup roasted bell peppers in oil
1 cup of olives
1 rosemary stalk (approx 1ft.)
1 yellow onion
5-7 cloves of garlic
1 can of whole tomatoes (16oz.)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
(Note: Try to select vegetables that are about 1in. in diameter.)
- Wash the vegetables. Dry thoroughly. Slice into 1/4in, thick rounds.
- Wash and peel the carrot. Slice into rounds as thinly as possible.
- Drain the roasted bell peppers and slice into 1/4in. thick strips.
- Drain the olives and pit if necessary. Roughly chop.
- Remove and save the tip of the rosemary stalk for garnish. Strip the leaves from the stem and mince the leaves finely. Discard the stem.
- Clean and thinly slice the onion and shallot.
- In the mixing bowl, finely crush the tomatoes using your hands.
- Clean and roughly chop the garlic.
Spread the vegetable slices out onto the cutting board. Season both sides of each slice with a little salt and pepper. Make sure you do this before moving on to any other step. Let the vegetables rest on the cutting board until you're ready to use them. Place the oven rack in the middle of your over and heat the oven to 350ºF.
Sautee the onion and shallot slices in one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Cover and let steam until just translucent. Remove lid and add both the garlic and the minced rosemary leaves.
Using medium or medium-low heat, cook the aromatics until they caramelize and turn light brown. Stir often.
Add the olives and roasted bell peppers. Continue cooking until the onion and shallot slices become a rich, golden brown. Stir often and keep an eye on the stove. It's easy to burn the aromatics during this stage.
Raise the heat to medium or medium-high. Immediately deglaze the pan with the red wine. Once the wine comes to a boil, remove from the heat, ignite the surface of the wine with your lighter, then replace on the heat. The flames will fade once most of the alcohol has been burned off. Let the wine reduce until almost gone.
Add the tomato puree and let come to a boil. Drop the heat to medium or medium-low and let simmer until reduced by half.
Remove from heat and let cool. Puree in blender until smooth, then pass through the sieve to remove any woody bits. Set aside.
Instructions (Ratatouille - Confit Byaldi):
Spread a 1/2in. layer of the sauce evenly across the bottom of the casserole dish. Save the remaining sauce for plating, or possibly making another confit byaldi later if you have enough left.
Arrange a single layer of overlapping vegetable rounds across the top of the sauce. You should sink each round about halfway into the sauce. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top.
Roast at 350ºF until the vegetables are tender. Should take about an hour. Some recipes, including Chef Keller's, call for covering the vegetables with parchment or tin foil to prevent browning and cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. I like the extra caramelization the vegetables and sauce get, so I dispense with this step. I compensate by roasting the vegetables for less time under higher heat, preserving the color of the vegetables. You should play with both methods and choose the one that tastes best to you.
Plate in a small pool of the reserved sauce. Garnish with a rosemary sprig. I prefer to make a meal of it as is. However, it's great with grilled or roasted chicken, or on top of pasta.
Read about a similar attempt to reverse engineer Thomas Keller's ratatouille from the movie on Smitten Kitchen.