Thursday, August 1, 2013


Ratatouille or Confit Byaldi
After a visit to my local Farmers Market, I couldn't resist and purchased a bunch of various vegetables.  The first dish that came to mind was Ratatouille, or Confit Byaldi.  

Veggies From Market
While the "original" ratatouille recipes tell us to fry the vegetables before baking, the Confit Byaldi version does not fry them. The vegetables are baked slowly in the oven for several hours to steam.  Sauces, cheese or vinaigrettes could be then added to the final baked/steamed vegetables.

Many recipes for Ratatouille are featured on the Net, including Chef Thomas Keller's version of Byaldi which was published in his 1999 cookbook, The French Laundry Cookbook.  In Chef Keller's recipe, he added two sauces.  One is a tomato and pepper sauce called piperade, which is made of reduced and finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs, then spread thinly at the bottom of the vegetable bed.  The other is an herbed balsamic vinaigrette that is served atop the vegetables.  
The first time I made this dish was in 2007, not long after the movie, Ratatioulle, was released.  I admit it.  I did go to the movies to see it back then, only after I learned that Chef Keller served as a food consultant for the Pixar film and allowed its producer to intern at his restaurant.  It was a really good movie.  And a good recipe, nonetheless.
Circa 2007
So I revisited the recipe (and watched the movie) again.  And after several hours of prep, below is my adaption of Chef Keller's version of Byaldi, or Ratatioulle, using  all of the vegetables that I purchased at the Market.

For Piperade:
1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1 lime green pepper, seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt

For Vegetables:
1 zucchini sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 Italian eggplant sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 white eggplant sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and 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 until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato.  Add tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about 45 seconds to one minute.  Remove tomatoes and quickly submerge into an ice water bath.  This will loosen the skins and make it easier to peel the tomatoes.  When cooled, remove tomatoes from ice water.  Peel, remove seeds and dice tomatoes while reserving as much juice as possible.  Strain tomato juice through a very fine sieve to extract seeds.  Set juice aside.

Diced Tomatoes
Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft. Add peppers and simmer to soften them.  

Tomato and Pepper Mixture
Season to taste with salt.  Discard herbs. Reserve a tablespoon of mixture. Spread the remaining piperade mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch skillet.

For Vegetables:
Heat oven to 275 degrees. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of 8 alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Repeat until pan is filled.

Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with lid (alternatively, use parchment paper or foil crimping edges to seal well).  Bake until vegetables are tender about 2 hours.  When done, remove from oven.

For Vinaigrette:
Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

To Serve:
Spoon vegetables onto individual serving plates. Cheese, such as parmesan, feta, or mozzarella, may be added to the roasted vegetables.  Then Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

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