No need to look further than the great Thomas Keller's recipe. It's very time consuming but it's all worth it.
Thomas Keller's Ratatouille Serves 4
1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon 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 bay leaf
1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces) sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1 Japanese eggplant, (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chervil, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make 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.
Combine oil, garlic and onion in medium skillet and cook over low heat on stovetop 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 1 tablespoon of mixture and spread remainder in bottom of an 8-inch ovenproof skillet.
To prepare vegetables:
Heat oven to 275 degrees. In center of skillet arrange 8 alternating slices of vegetables, 2 each of zucchini, eggplant, squash and tomatoes, over piperade, overlapping in a circle so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Continue alternating and overlapping vegetables in close spiral that lets slices mound slightly in 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 skillet 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.) If there is excess liquid in pan, place over medium heat on stove until reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. If desired, reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.)
To make vinaigrette:
Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
Heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly browned. Cut in quarters and very carefully lift one quarter onto plate with offset spatula. Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate.
French Fries' Ratatouille
Serves many for several days
Eggplants 2 lbs
Zucchini 2 lbs
Red bell peppers 1 lbs
1 big onion finely minced
Tomatoes 2 lbs
Garlic to taste, crushed and minced
Bouquet garni with thyme, celery and fennel
All quantities are guidelines. Some people make ratatouille without eggplant. Or without zucchini. Or without pepper. Adjust the recipe to match the season, the market, and you and your family's taste.
1) Prep all veggies, dicing everything in about 1/2'' cubes.
2) Make the tomato fondue:
Sweat onion in a little olive oil. Add tomato, garlic and bouquet garni. Season, and if necessary, add sugar and or tomato paste. If you use good ripe tomatoes, it's not necessary. Cook on low heat until all the water from the tomatoes evaporates.
3) In a pan with a little olive oil, lightly saute the zucchini, giving them a light golden color, until almost cooked but still firm.
4) In another pan with a little olive oil, lightly saute the eggplant, light color, still firm.
5) In another pan with a little olive oil, lightly saute the bell peppers, keeping them a bit firm.
6) Add zucchini, eggplants and bell peppers to tomato fondue, gently mix and let cook very, very slowly for 15-20mn.
The result should be an amazing mix of vegetables that still have their individual identity, and still have some bite. All the flavors are layered. There shouldn't be much juice at all in the pan.
Note: Ratatouille is absolutely delicious served cold. In that case you can add black olives, capers, basil...
Now for the week nights:
French Fries' Quick Ratatouille
1) Lightly saute the onion in olive oil.
2) Add the bell peppers, lightly saute and let soften a bit.
3) Add the eggplant, lightly saute and let soften a bit.
4) Add the zucchini, lightly saute and let soften a bit.
5) Add the tomato and the bouquet garni, and let cook until all veggies are tender.
The result will be more mushy, more juicy than the first recipe. It will be more "one taste", with no layers of flavors, and veggies most likely wont' have a bite to them. This is quite good served with white rice to mop up the juices. But nowhere near as good as the first recipe.
Tip: If you like the taste of garlic, reserve some of the minced garlic and add it 5-10mn before the end of the cooking.
We seldom (more like never) have ratatouille as a main. Most often we use it as the vegetable siding grilled meat -- especially ground beef steak -- along with rice more often than mash. Mashed potatoes want gravy.
As I said at the end of my second recipe, we serve it with rice. Even as a side dish with a steak or chicken or even fish, "runny" ratatouille goes wonderfully with rice. Never with pasta. Never with mashed potatoes or potatoes of any kind.
The "real" ratatouille (my first recipe) shouldn't have juices and therefore doesn't need the rice, but they still go together well.
Koukouvagia: At the very end of Keller's recipe you introduce the word "byaldi." Is that the skillet full of veggies?
Funny, but I don't know. I cut and paste this recipe to my records some time ago from another forum so I can't be sure. I always took it as the pan of veggies like you say.
All hard work aside this is a phenomenal recipe well worth the trouble it takes to make. It's great for a large dinner party.
I do have a greek version of ratatouille that is much less time consuming where I use only zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. All are cut in similar round slices like traditional ratatouille. I then toss the veggies with olive oil, parsley, dill, and sometimes mint, oregano, and salt/pepper. Arrange in a large pan and roast until tender and golden. It goes perfectly with fish.
Keller's recipe looks interesting, but I don't know that I'd call it ratatouille. Sure, it contains all the right ingredients, but it just seems too formal a presentation for what is essentially vegetable stew. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of the ratatouille (don't care for eggplant or zucchini, but I have made it many, many times, a number of different ways. In one of my favorite ways, my chef, an old French guy, used to have us add just a bit of mashed banana when we added all the sauteed vegetables to the tomato fondue. You couldn't taste the banana but it gave the ratatouille just the slightest hint of sweetness and added an underlying flavor that seemed to round out the rest. To this day, if I make ratatouille add a bit of banana to it.
I like to griddle all the veg first with olive oil. Aubergines,zucchini, red onions garlic and peppers. I also add mushrooms. I griddle them in chunky slices then chop them up.
Add REALLY good chopped tomatoes. worcester sauce, chilli flakes, S&P 1/2 tsp sugar for every tin of toms.Lots of dried oregano and reduce well. I also add a spice mix called sexy n sassy,which i bought in Charlston market. I vaguely know whats init, it just gives it oomph!
I like to cook big batches and put in freezer bags as it's so useful.
Terrific for lasagne.
Or take portobello mushrooms, spread inside with 1 tsp Philli.
Add a huge dollop of veg mix which has been mushed up a bit. Top with a mix of mature cheddar and mozarella and bake in a med-hot oven till browned. its great as a side, or snack with rocket salad
also, there is always wee tubs of leftover bolognese in my freezer. I add some to the ratatouille and mix with cooked macaroni. Put in a dish and top sliced tomatoes and a mix of parmesan, cheddar and mozarella.
Or get out the toasty maker.Brush a WEE bit of evoo on the outside of the bread. Fill with veg mix and sprinkle with thin shards of ham and parmesan
I've even "Thai'd" it. Replacing 1/2 the tinned tomatoes with coconut milk. Add a few kafir lime leaves and some Thai red curry paste before reducing. Served with sticky rice.Or you could not reduce much attal, mush it up a bit and serve as soup.
You'll have gathered I use the basic ratatouille recipe quite a lot. I do think it lends itself to so many adaptations. BTW.Once its made to your liking. My favourite recipe is to put it in my terracotta crock, which has soaked in water overnight. Then i place on top browned chicken legs.lid on and bake for an hour. served with brown basmati rice, yogurt and homemade rotis
The veg does end up well overcooked, but so gorgeous.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
Technically, French Fries, it's a Sicilian version. And the folks who taught me how to make it would probably say that ratatouille is the French version of caponata.
If you decide to can it, keep in mind it must be pressure canned to be safe. Sure, sure, many old timers just use a boiling water bath. But it's really not acidic enough for that. This is even more true for ratatouille.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
And the folks who taught me how to make it would probably say that ratatouille is the French version of caponata.
Yeah and pizza is the Italian version of croque monsieur. I'm just joking I have no idea who came first, ratatouille or caponata. One thing I know is that ratatouille comes from the south of France, so not that far from Sicilia, so it makes sense that one dish may have influenced the other (or the other way around).
the ingredients for how i make Ratatouille are as follows, no weights or measurements, all vegetable ingredients are roughly equal in quantity
Chopped Tomatoes in Juice
Fat for frying preferably Butter
in a thick bottom pan sweat diced onion in fat till soft, then add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, add some white wine and cook out the alcohol
add all the other diced vegetables and chopped tomatoes, add the herbs and season,
bring gently to boil and simmer for 15 minutes till the vegetables are soft, add the tomato puree and check seasoning and consistency