Friday, October 7, 2011

Ratatouille's Ratatouille (or Keller's Ratatouille) with Rice Pilaf

There are signs of fall everywhere. As the air turns crisp cool, cozy sweaters and riding boots appear, blogs buzz over delicious apple treats and pumpkin patches scatter the Bay Area. Except the weather in SF feels like summer (which we never had) and the farms around here are still brimming with late-summer produce.

Thankfully it is cool enough to turn the oven on to make this wonderful ratatouille celebrating the end of summer and cusp of fall. One of the most visually stunning dishes, ratatouille truly highlights juicy tomatoes and other late season vegetables like eggplant, peppers, zucchini and summer squash.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone on this one. Ever since I saw the movie "Ratatouille" I have been wanting to make Ratatouille's rataouille. After a little research I learned that traditionally ratatouille is made like a stew, but Julia Child recommends cooking each vegetable separately so that it holds its shape and texture and each vegetable retains its flavor and then layering the vegetables and baking.

According to this article in the New York Times, Ratatouille, as in the movie, was based on Thomas Keller's modern approach to ratatouille, confit byaldi, where the vegetables are beautifully layered like an accordion and slowly baked at a low temperature so the vegetables hold their shape.

When my CSA box arrived filled with eggplant, a colorful array of peppers, zucchini and summer squash, and heirloom tomatoes, I took it as a sign that I had to make Keller's ratatouille. And after eating at The French Laundry in May (yes, I still owe you that post), I have an appreciation for Keller's careful and precise treatment of vegetables.

Keller's recipe starts with a piperade- a wonderful combination of roasted red, yellow and purple peppers and heirloom tomatoes, flavored with sprigs of parsley and thyme.

The piperade is spread on the bottom of a baking dish and the sliced veggies are arranged in an alternating manner in a tight overlapping spiral over the piperade. Keller's recipe recommends using thin long Japanese eggplant to maintain uniformity in the size of the sliced veggies, but I used a medium sized globe eggplant and adjusted the slices as necessary.

A mixture of garlic, thyme and olive oil is drizzled on top of the veggies and the dish is baked for 2.5 hours at 275. I did everything up to this point ahead of time and refrigerated the dish. The next night I reheated the dish in the oven at 350 before putting it under the broiler for a few minutes just before serving.

I served the ratatouille with a gorgeous, fluffy pilaf and a vinaigrette of reserved piperade, balsamic and thyme. The ratatouille was visually stunning as expected but it also tasted heavenly which made it well worth the extra effort!

Ratatouille (Source:

1 1/2 peppers, assorted colors (red, yellow, orange, purple), halved, seeds and ribs removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces total weight), peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1/2 a bay leaf
Kosher salt

1 zucchini, sliced into 1/16 rounds
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1/16 rounds
1 yellow squash, sliced into 1/16 rounds
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oi
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt 
freshly ground black pepper

For piperade, heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, and discard herbs. Reserve 2 tbsp of mixture and spread remainder in bottom of an 8-inch baking dish or broiler safe skillet.

For vegetables, heat oven to 275 degrees. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that <1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until pan is filled; all vegetables may not be needed.

Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.) At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.

For vinaigrette, combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

To serve, heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly browned. Slice in quarters and very carefully lift onto plate with offset spatula. Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.

1 cup long grain rice, washed and drained
2 cups hot water
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Soak rice in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add rice and saute in butter for 2-3 minute, stirring often. Add 2 cups of hot water. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook until the rice absorbs all the water. Avoid stirring the rice while it is cooking.

Once rice is done, remove pot from heat. Remove the lid and place a clean kitchen towel or a paper towel across the top of the pot and replace the lid. Let stand for about 5 minutes and then serve. Avoid using a spoon to fluff the pilaf, use a fork if needed.

1 comment:

  1. Un chef d'oeuvre, tout a fait! Bravo!


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