Like many of you (or not), we discovered this beautiful dish only thanks to the famous 2007 Disney film ‘Ratatouille’, which I watched on a regular basis with my oldest daughter when it first came out. For the french-inspired animated film, Disney consulted with Thomas Keller, an American chef with not only one, but two 3-Michelin star restaurants! His variation of the traditional French ratatouille added the delicious touch of the pipérade on the bottom and the vinaigrette on top.
The original ratatouille was a very course stewed vegetable ragout-style dish from Nice, France. The word itself comes from the term ‘to stir up’. It’s said Michel Guérard, a famous and innovating French chef, recreated the dish differently by not frying the vegetables beforehand and placing them in the unique swirly layered style, a variation he called ‘confit byaldi’. The recipe is a name play of the Turkish dish ‘imam bayildi’, which consists of whole eggplant stuffed with onion, garlic, & tomatoes. When Thomas Keller served as consultant for the Disney movie, he decided to use the ‘confit byaldi’ form, which fans the vegetable rounds accordion-style with a palette knife.
I was curious to know what the dish that had awed the most famous (and vicious) food critic in the world in the animated film was. It looked so simple and yet so complex! So I promised my daughter the ratatouille adventure one day in our own kitchen. I must admit she was not too thrilled when she found out it was all vegetables. She did, however, make a conscious effort to finish her share since she knew just how much we had waited and worked for it! I appreciated her efforts.
For the Vegetable Rings
- 2 red tomatoes
- 1 zucchini
- 1 golden zucchini
- 1 eggplant
When selecting the vegetables, be sure they have approximately the same radius. Thicker is not necessarily better, as the rings and fan will work and look better if the vegetable rounds are smaller and more manageable. I worked with approximately 6cm (2-1/3in) rounds, and was satisfied with the baking and serving processes. Wash the vegetables and slice into uniform slices of approximately 4mm (1/8in) width using a very large knife, or use your very trustworthy mandoline slicer for the job. Set all the scraps and ugly cuts aside for the pipérade – nothing goes to waste!
Set some kitchen paper flat on a large surface, such your table or counter, and lay all the vegetable rounds individually. Sprinkle with salt before continuing with the pipérade to draw out their water to avoid soggy ratatouille. Be sure to turn over once water beads are visible and salt the other side to repeat the process. Pat dry right before layering.
For the Pipérade
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/2 yellow pepper
- 1/2 orange pepper
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 bay laurel leaf
- 2 tablespoons of ground parsley
- Salt & pepper
- 1 dash of rosemary
- 1 dash of thyme
Pan roast the peppers first to remove the skins, without charring. Remove from heat, remove skins and add to medium-sized pot on medium-low heat. Add olive oil and onion and sauté slowly. Add the garlic, bay laurel leaf, & ground parsley, as well as the vegetable scraps and any vegetable rounds that are not up-to-par, making sure to remove the tomato skins as well. Add salt & pepper to taste and cook until jammy. Remove from heat and let cool. Add to blender with some rosemary and thyme and blend until smooth. If pipérade looks too stiff, add a tablespoon of olive oil to gloss it up a bit!
For the Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
- 1 dash of thyme
- Salt & pepper
Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and set aside. In a round medium bowl or serving dish, spread a thin layer of the pipérade on the bottom. Arrange the rings of vegetable rounds by overlapping the four vegetables: tomato, zucchini, golden zucchini, & eggplant, leaving 1/2cm (1/4in) of slice exposed. Add rings of vegetable rounds starting from the outermost ring until you reach the middle of the bowl or serving dish. Drizzle evenly with olive oil vinaigrette and cover with parchment paper or foil. Seal well.
Bake at 300°F (150°C) for 60 minutes. Uncover and finish baking for 30 more minutes. Be sure to serve warm, adding a serving spoonful of pipérade with a ring segment of vegetable rounds to each person’s plate. The flavors are magnificent! I was pleasantly surprised with my results and would love for you to try your own!
3 Comments Add yours
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