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Ratatouille--Cook-Off 42

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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:49 AM

Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index.

There was this rat, and he wanted to be a cook. When he finally made it into the kitchen of a Parisian restaurant, he needed some help coming up with a signature dish to impress the critics.

So he sent his producer to stage a few days at the French Laundry, a little-known, out-of-the-way joint run by a guy named Thomas Keller. Keller had come up with a dish he called "byaldi," and with a bit of tweaking, handed over a recipe for Thomas Keller's "confit byaldi." Rat made it, critic was thrilled, everyone's happy.

A little while later, this eGullet Society member, KarenM, prints out the recipe and makes this thing of beauty:

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Fortunately, there were many dozen grateful Heartlanders eager to devour the dish, which some of them called by its ancestral name: ratatouille.

Ratatouille is the perfect late summer Cook-Off. Shockingly, we have only one topic dedicated to it, but it's a beaut. You'll find disagreements about whether ratatouille should be a jammy, stewy ratatouille or a discretely sautéed and layered dish. Advocates of Provencal authenticity face off against the fresh, clean, and bright brigade who know no region. And then there's that picky olive oil question.

I'll admit that I've always hated ratatouille, which has been throughout my life the potluck dish I should avoid at all costs, so I'm game to figure out how to make something that doesn't suck. I also have no fear of the mandoline, if it comes to that.

So where do you stand? Jammy goodness or definitive elements? Are you a Provencal stickler or a "what's ready in my garden" free spirit?
Chris Amirault
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#2 Kerry Beal

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:53 AM

I'm in. The ratatoulle I make doesn't look as pretty as this, but it tastes wonderful.

#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:54 AM

Do you go jammy, Kerry, or are you more Keller-esque?
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#4 BarbaraY

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:13 AM

I love Ratatoulle both ways. First learned to make the jammy kind and then worked with a chef that made the quickly cooked almost crunchy type. No, the eggplant wasn't crunchy but the rest of the vegetables were al dente.

Heading for the garden to see how the eggplant is doing. Last I looked they were pretty pitiful.

#5 Alex

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:43 AM

I use a slightly tweaked, jammy-leaning recipe out of the Cooks' Illustrated Sept/Oct 2001 issue. I've yet to eat a tastier version. Make it even better by plopping it on some crispy fried polenta and topping it with some goats cheese.
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#6 cakewalk

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:50 AM

I've been looking for different ways to empty my refrigerator, which is currently filled with my CSA's eggplant and zucchini (among other things.) Ratatouille is the perfect solution. Today I found a recipe for "Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart" (I think it was from the food network), which I will try this weekend.

#7 Kerry Beal

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:53 AM

Do you go jammy, Kerry, or are you more Keller-esque?

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Jammy for sure. Love the look of the Keller-esque version however.

#8 Poffertjes

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 04:19 PM

I just finished reading My Life In France, by Julia Child and her describing living in Provence and her wanting to include a recipe for Ratatouille in MTAFC.

I was so inspired I made her recipe last week with my CSA delivery. I did scorch the bottom a little bit, but it was divine!!!

#9 -sheila mooney

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 04:44 PM

[i have a recipe i got in france, supposedly a version of ratatouille preferred by the late bernard loiseau. no onions, no garlic. the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers are cut in small dice, lots of olive oil and herbs,s and p, baked in a clay or ceramic dish for a long time at low temp. it's different from the soupy/stewy kinds, but really delicious.

#10 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 04:47 PM

Does it become jammy? That long cooking would seem to have that effect, non?
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#11 Shelby

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 05:37 PM

Ehem, I know I can google, but I like YOUR recipes, fellow members.

Lead a newbie on this :cool:

#12 LindaK

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 06:16 PM

Oh my, this cook-off is a taunt. Being without a working kitchen this summer during my kitchen renovation means that I can't make ratatouille, my favorite end of summer dish. My #1 reason for hoping construction would be finished by Labor Day was so that I could make ratatouille.

I have strong feelings about ratatouille. Too jammy, non. Too crunchy, absolutement pas. The recipes that have offered the most guidance to me are from Julia Child's Mastering the Art and Patricia Wells Bistro Cooking but I follow neither religiously. The rules I live by:

- cook each ingredient separately
- combine before refrigerating
- don't be afraid of salt or olive oil
- best made a day or two in advance
- adjust seasoning before serving. Critical is a generous chiffonade of fresh basil.

It's best on its own, at room temperature, as a side dish. But leftovers are versatile--tossed with pasta, on pizza, in an omlet or sandwich...

enjoy, all those with a stove to cook this beautiful dish!

Edited by LindaK, 14 August 2008 - 06:23 PM.


 


#13 C. sapidus

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 06:26 PM

Anyone with strong feelings about ratouille should skip this post, but we made "smoked ratatouille" last winter. After smoking baby eggplants, leeks, bell peppers and onions, we chopped them up and simmered with garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, and capers.

Good stuff, but somebody is probably rolling over somewhere. :rolleyes:

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#14 KatieLoeb

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 11:36 PM

I just finished making a gigantic load of ratatouille on Monday. I'd been to a local farm and they had $1 baskets of yesterday's produce. I couldn't resist. For $2 I had an entire basket of tomatoes and another of eggplants and peppers. The tomatoes ended up as cream of tomato soup that very night. I used canned chopped tomatoes in the ratatouille instead. I had the bright idea to make it in the pressure cooker, thinking it would simply be done faster. It was done faster, but it also broke down the veggies a bit more than I would have liked. Nonetheless, it's still tasty and I've been eating it all week as well as putting a big container of it up in the freezer. There's Vidalia onion, fresh garlic, a few green and red bell peppers, a Cubanel pepper or two, two white eggplant and one regular dark eggplant, green and yellow zucchini, a small can each of chopped red and chopped yellow roma tomatoes, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and a big handful of fresh basil chiffonade. I wished I'd remembered to put some capers in.

I'll take a picture tomorrow and edit it in so you can see the final result. Not too pretty, but very tasty!

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#15 Chufi

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 01:00 AM

I cannot resist linking to this blogpost of mine (in Dutch), because it not only has pictures of making ratatouille, but also of a sweet little rat...

anyway, my recipe: first make a tomatosauce with either fresh tomatoes or canned, lots of garlic, some chilipepper (fresh or dried), ground corianderseed (I think I got this from Elizabeth David, and it's a really good addition).

The fry up all the vegetables (onions, peppers, courgette, aubergine) seperately , in plenty of olive oil, and add them to the pot with tomatosauce when nicely browned, then simmer everything together for 20 minutes or so. It should not be too saucy... more like chunks of vegetables lightly coated with the sauce.
Just before serving, stir in some red wine vinegar.

The vinegar and corianderseed really make the difference in this recipe.

Posted Image

Edited by Chufi, 15 August 2008 - 01:08 AM.


#16 conor610

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 01:42 AM

Wow--I, too, made the confit byaldi after seeing the recipe in the NYT (and of course in the rat flick), but mine was nowhere near the pretty. Tasted delicious, though--I pureed the piperade, which I think added to the effect (no chunks in the movie).
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#17 LindaK

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 07:01 AM

anyway, my recipe: first make a tomatosauce with either fresh tomatoes or canned, lots of garlic, some chilipepper (fresh or dried), ground corianderseed (I think I got this from Elizabeth David, and it's a really good addition).

The fry up all the vegetables (onions, peppers, courgette, aubergine) seperately , in plenty of olive oil, and add them to the pot with tomatosauce when nicely browned, then simmer everything together for 20 minutes or so. It should not be too saucy... more like chunks of vegetables lightly coated with the sauce.
Just before serving, stir in some red wine vinegar.

The vinegar and corianderseed really make the difference in this recipe.

Chufi, your ratatouille looks perfect! I also find myself adding a splash of vinegar to perk it up, depending on how acidic the tomatoes are. Balsamic is my preference, since its slight sweetness compliments the vegetables well. I am intriqued by the corianderseed addition. do you toast it first?


 


#18 snowangel

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 09:52 AM

Is it heresy to make a ratatouille without eggplant? My family runs screaming and kicking if there's eggplant in a dish (unless they are the little Thai eggplants in curry, in which case they merely push them to the side of the plate).
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#19 KatieLoeb

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 12:26 PM

For some reason I can't edit my former post. Here's the pressure cooker ratatouille over Harvest Grains:

Posted Image

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#20 Pam R

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 01:12 PM

Is it heresy to make a ratatouille without eggplant?  My family runs screaming and kicking if there's eggplant in a dish (unless they are the little Thai eggplants in curry, in which case they merely push them to the side of the plate).

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I was reading a bunch of recipes this morning and at Chocolate & Zucchini, she has a side note in her recipe "- 1 eggplant (if you want to make the traditional ratatouille from Nice, hold the eggplant)" -- so you have a whole region agreeing with you.

I just got back from the farmer's market and my local vegetable shop and I'll be cookign a batch tomorrow.

Does anybody add mushrooms?

#21 Pam R

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 01:15 PM

Does it become jammy? That long cooking would seem to have that effect, non?

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Are you looking for jammy or trying to avoid it?

#22 Eilen

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 03:52 PM

Does anybody add mushrooms?

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That's funny, I was eating my leftover ratatouille today with pasta and I thought it might be nice with mushrooms. But no, I've never made it that way.

Good timing! My farmer's market finally had all the necessary ingredients, so I made some on Thursday. I was going to post it in the Cooking with Fine Cooking thread because the recipe I used was from Issue #80.

In short, the ingredients are all sauteed seperately, beginning with the onions and ending with a very quick saute of the tomatoes and garlic. The vegetables go into a colander to drain over a saucepan, and the juices are then reduced to be poured over the dish. A final addition of lemon juice, hot sauce(!), and fresh basil and parsley brightens everything up. I added all except the hot sauce, which I just couldn't get my head around.

It's a great recipe! I'll post a picture on Monday.

#23 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:35 PM

Does it become jammy? That long cooking would seem to have that effect, non?

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Are you looking for jammy or trying to avoid it?

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I... I... I don't know.
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#24 Pam R

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:44 PM


Are you looking for jammy or trying to avoid it?

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I... I... I don't know.

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That's okay. I'm trying to figure out if I should be sauteeing/simmering or roasting. :unsure:

#25 suzilightning

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 10:15 AM

Friday night and I was trying to use up my produce before farmer's market today so I had these items to start with:

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add some red and white onions minced and garlic and you get this:

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and served with some grilled shrimps and brown rice for dinner.

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i am NOT a big eggplant or nightshade lover but this came out rather well and even johnnybird ate some.
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#26 eldereno

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 04:06 PM

I've made ratatouille twice this summer so far. The first time was for a party over the 4th of July weekend. I wanted to take a side dish that would not have to be served hot or cold but would be tasty at room temperature. It was not as beautiful as the confit byaldi but it sure did taste great. I did not follow one recipe, but sort of combined a couple that I had found on the net. I salted and let sit the large dice of eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. After rinsing and drying, I sauteed all of the vegies separately (eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red, yellow and orange peppers). If I remember correctly, I sweated small diced onions and garlic. I did simmer all the ingredients together, adding pureed tomatoes and fresh grape tomatoes, and basil........vinegar at the end. Though there was some jamminess to the base, the zucchini, squash and peppers remained fairly intact with still some bite. At the suggestion of one of Tyler Florence's recipes, I sauteed some garlic, crushed red peppers and toasted pine nuts and mixed that with some crumbled feta to sprinkle on top of each serving. The dish was well received. My brother, who normally does not like eggplant OR zuchini, loved it.

The second time, I was using up some items in the fridge and just winged it. Still tasty.

So what are experiences here with freezing their ratatouille? Would you make it without the basil and freeze or just freeze the finished dish?

Am interested in someday doing the Thomas Keller version but will probably wait until I really need to impress someone!!!!!
Donna

#27 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 04:14 PM

So what are experiences here with freezing their ratatouille? Would you make it without the basil and freeze or just freeze the finished dish?


I freeze leftover ratatouille all the time. If it's too watery when it defrosts, I just let it drip in the sink through a colander for a few minutes. Good as new.

I freeze it finished, complete with all herbs and seasonings.

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#28 maggiethecat

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 05:08 PM

I don't think that eggplant is a requirement -- at all -- but without it I think of the dish as closer to a piperade. I lean towards jammy myself, heavy on the olive oil. Mushrooms...hmmm. I'm sure they'd taste good but I consider ratatouille a bright tasting summery dish and the mushrooms would add an autumnal note.

The pairing of ratatouille and eggs is one of the fabbest I know, whether as an omelet filling, a base for a poached or fried egg, or a side with scrambled. I use up my "leftover" ratatouille at lunchtime with an egg. Cheap, healthy, delicious.

Another use for "leftover" is to add a can of chickpeas. Heresy, I know, but served hot over rice it's a supremely satisfying vegetarian dinner. And chick peas are Provencal.

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#29 dockhl

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 06:43 PM

I made my take on "Remy's Ratatouille" last night, and it was one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth !

In the bottom of a 9' tart pan, I put a layer of tomato sauce, seasoned, thick.

In a spiral I layer 1/8" eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini. Seasoned with s/p, a little onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, thyme. Topped with thin sliced tomatoes, drizzled with good olive oil.

Into the oven at 375', uncovered, for 1 hour.

Served with polenta.

Unbelievably simple and fantastic ! (I am not a fan of jammy...........)

#30 Pam R

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 07:15 PM

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Farmer's market yesterday had everything I needed. Scorched and peeled the peppers, skinned and seeded the tomatoes. Combined them with zucchini, yellow zucchini, eggplant, red onion, a few mushrooms, fresh garlic, basil, Italian parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and some balsamic. After more than 1 1/2 hours cooking, it was watery so I added half a small can of tomato paste (2-3 oz.).

It was good. . . but not great. I think I may prefer 'jammy'. What do I do to make it jammy?





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