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hensonville

Ratatouille

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I must make ratatouille for twenty people. Would you please give me your advice on the method I should use? Do I need to saute everything separately and then layer it...ala Julia? Is there a simpler acceptable manner? Thanks.

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Yes. Cook each diced veggie seperately, then combine later--or you'll lose all that nice color and it'll end up as monochromatic mush. Garlic and onions can go in together.


abourdain

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I'm going to disagree with Bourdain here. Ratatouille is supposed to be cooked long enough for the vegetables to almost become the consistancy of jam. Like a ragu. People think it is just stewed vegetables when the goal is to make something that stews until it develops its own flavor and texture. If you drain it well after you cook it, and let the excess oil seep out of it, when you serve it you can pour a bit of extra virgin olive oil on it to liven it up and to combine a fresh taste with the cooked taste of the vegetables. As for the color, it turns brownish because of the skin of the eggplant. But if you use a sufficient amount of zucchini and tomato you should have some variance in the color. If I remember correctly, there is a great recipe for it in The Food Lover's Guide to France by Patricia Wells and she writes about a place in the town of Cassis that she describes as making the epitome of ratatouille.

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Steve - by seperately sauteing the Veg. and combining them together at the end you are adding an extra layer to technique and complexity that allows the true potential of the ingredients to be seen. Simply put, by combinging the individually cooked ingredients at the end you create a synergy of flavour, colour and texture not seen in the original recipe. Or are you suggesting that to truely appreciate how good the original recipe is, you would have to understand that the use of authentic Provincal ingredients and olive oil is vital for the recipe to work? The use of non-Provincal ingredients and olive oil removes the recipe from the correct cultural context for a true appreciation?

:wink:

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The Balic be praised. :laugh:

H'ville, if you're not a purist - and have ample oven space - Delia Smith's oven-roasted ratatouille is delicious. Cut the vegetables into 1" pieces (except the cherry tomatoes, which Delia wants you to skin but I don't), toss with oil, chopped garlic and basil, spread out in a shallow pan and roast at 450º for 40-60 minutes. Good served hot or at room temperature.

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Adam - You are delving into a level of technique in making ratatouille that is beyond my personal expertise. It very well might be that the best result is to cook the veggies separately first, and then combine them later. Can't tell you. We need experienced ratatouille chefs to disclose the magic answer. But, I can tell you that a true Provencal ratatouille is not a small stew of vegetables in the way it's portrayed in NYC and London. It's really like a chunky vegetable jam. How we best get to that consistancy and flavor is obviously up for debate and I harbor no prejudice for any particular method except the one that gives the best result. As to the question of whether you want it to taste Provencal or like an American ratatouille, I suggest the former and the only thing that will get you there is the right olive oil.

Of course you might want to tinker with the recipe depending on what your RT is going to accompany. If for example you are serving it with fish, you might want to have a small saute of vegetables in the style of RT because the crunch of the vegetables would compliment the fish. But if you are serving it with a leg of lamb, you most definitely want the jam consistancy as I assure you a small piece of lamb combined with some of the vegetable jam is a combination of monumental proportions :wink:.

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From what I have seen in my many ratatouille research field trips, the "jam" like texture is due to the emulsion of Veg. proteins/sugars in olive oil. You may need the correct type of olive oil for this to work. Now who do we know that imports olive oil from that part of the world? :rolleyes:

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D'uh. A can of which is already on its way to Hensonville in order to ensure an authentic version. :wink:

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Ive made about 6 batches of ratatouille in the past two months, ea enough to feed 12 (what can I say, it's extremely versatile and good for you). The recipe I follow is Joel Robuchon's in that book written by Patricia Wells. Skirting around the sophistry of how to cook the damn thing for a moment, the addition of saffron as recommended by Robuchon really makes a difference!

Back to the issue of cooking, it is indeed laborious, but unavoidable. This is one time a mandoline will stand you in good stead (got my Bron at Dehillerin in Paris last year). The freshness of the veggies is key, especially the quality of the tomatoes used.

Ratatouille improves with age, i.e. it always tastes better after a night spent in the fridge. It's great eaten at room temperature as well as warm, and tastes great simply slapped on good crusty bread. If you have some left over roast chicken handy, you've got yourself a picnic!


Edited by Wimpy (log)

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Ratatouille improves with age, i.e. it always tastes better after a night spent in the fridge.  It's great eaten at room temperature as well as warm, and tastes great simply slapped on good crusty bread.  If you have some left over roast chicken handy, you've got yourself a picnic!

I like it for omelet filling too, or with chunks of roasted firm fish (swordfish particularly good for this) stirred in like a fish/veggie stew. And it's ALWAYS better the next day.


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Yes, use my method. And yes, most everything separately. But no layering needed. And this is simple.

Ingredients from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Recipe mine. Adapted with assistance from one of my favourite chefs, Chef Thivet, who spent his formative stagiere years in the Michelin maisons on the Cote d'Azur.

Best served after resting for 24 hours. Chill then bring to room temp. Authentic flavour and I think better consistency and texture than any other ratatouille. I don't like the wateriness of most.

With all due respect to Chef Bourdain I think it's important to note that the onions should be sweated before adding the garlic otherwise the latter can turn bitter.

And if Chef Robuchon says add saffron, then add it.

I've adjusted the recipe for 20.

RATATOUILLE

serves 20

Ingredients

15 garlic cloves

5 thyme stalks

5 rosemary stalks

1 bunch of basil

10 zucchini

3 red bell peppers

3 onions

20 tomatoes

5 small eggplants

olive oil

bouquet garni

salt

pepper

Peel garlic, degerm as needed, crush lightly. Add to medium pot with rosemary, thyme stalks only, basil stems only and about 2 cups of olive oil. Boil then remove from heat and set aside.

Brunoise onion then sweat with thyme leaves in garlic/herb oil.

Brunoise zucchini and eggplant then sear to just golden in hot oil, drain and set aside.

Peel and brunoise peppers then add to onions and sweat, add oil as needed.

Peel, seed, brunoise tomatoes then add to onions/peppers with bouquet garni, add oil as needed, sweat to soft.

Add zucchini/eggplant to onions/peppers/tomatoes, soft garlic from oil, mix carefully/well, taste/season, cook low to desired texture.

Serve warm or set aside to cool/rest. Just before service add basil chiffonade, taste/season as needed.

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((a true Provencale ratatouille))

Back to the question of: You want it good as it can be? Or you want it "authentic"? After a few nights in the fridge,your "good" ratatouille will become more authentic as it becomes more sludgelike and sinister colored. Bon appetit!


abourdain

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I go with cooking each vegetables separately. The overall result has more depth of flavors, but it all depends on what you like. As for authenticity, I don't remember haven't eaten any Ratatouille that's mush like anywhere in my travels through Provence.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Hensonville,

I am also of the cook separately camp.

I oven roast the zucchini, and red pepper, and 1 or 2 hot peppers drizzle with EVOO and salt hot 450 oven.

Roast all by itself tomatoes with some sprigs of fresh thyme (this time of year the cherry tomatoes on the vine have good flavor and I bought a 3lb box of campari tomatoes from costco last week that were great.)

Spread out single layer on 1/2 sheet pans.

Saute onion and garlic on stove in more EVOO

Assemble all ingredients. I like to add some fresh flat leaf parsley and some capers at the end.

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Personally, I prefer my ratatouille as close to a jam-like consistency as possible. When I dip a spoon into the dish, the first taste should remind me of plump, luscious vegetables ripening on the vine on a lazy summer day.

So, how do you like to make yours, and what do you like to serve it with?

Soba

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I make it many ways but one of my latest favourites is a roasted ratatouille. Chopped onions, minced garlic, lots of tomatoes, zuchinni, eggplant, salt, pepper, sprinkle of herbes de provence, olive oil, touch of balsamic. I just combine it all in a large glass baking dish so it's a good two inches deep and roast until all the veg are super soft. Stir in fresh chopeed basil and I actually like it on top of a mound of couscous, but usually for others polenta or simple bread does the trick.

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of course, this is just a hypothetical discussion since all the things that make ratatouille great--eggplant, peppers, tomatoes--are still 2 or 3 months away from being in season. but i really like to make ratatouille cooking each vegetable separately, then combining them for a short final cooking to meld the flavors.

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of course, this is just a hypothetical discussion since all the things that make ratatouille great--eggplant, peppers, tomatoes--are still 2 or 3 months away from being in season. but i really like to make ratatouille cooking each vegetable separately, then combining them for a short final cooking to meld the flavors.

I cook mine just the opposite. Into a saute pan, I put some sliced onions on top of some olive oil, then I put a layer of sliced zuchinni and summer squash, then a layer of sliced green and red pepper, then some diced tomato, then some salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, and some chopped fresh basil, if I have some. I fire it up on high to get it going and then reduce the heat and cover. When I think everything is cooked, I take the top off to let some of the liquid evaporate. Great with grilled flank steak and potatoes.

I don't think your method is wrong, just different. I might give it a try. How many pots and pans do you dirty up when you make your's?

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I don't think your method is wrong, just different. I might give it a try.

It's a bit along the lines of a spring vegetable ragout that Lespinasse used to offer, where each vegetable was cooked separately and then combined at the end prior to service.

Done this way, the integrity of each ingredient shines through while at the same time becoming part of a harmonious whole.

Soba

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I cook mine separately too. No green bell pepper in mine though- yellow and red.

I also add anchovies to the onion and garlic as I sweat them.

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The addition of anchovies sounds delicious. Gonna try that.

The reason I like to cook the veggies separately is that each one sautes, rather than steaming as they are added on top of each other. It makes the ratatouille less watery at the end. Mind you, it uses considerably more oil. But it turns out more unctious and tasty, I think.

I had never thought of oven cooking it, but this would probably be a good way to prevent the wateriness with less oil.

Fresh thyme and rosemary are always on my windowsill, so these go in, and loadsa garlic!

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actually, i only use one pan, though it does take more time. i cook each vegetable in succession in the same skillet. when they're done, i put them in a mixing bowl. when they're all finished, i return them to the skillet for final cooking. and yes, anchovies are absolutely wonderful. once you use them in a ratatouille, you'll hate to leave them out.

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