Best Ratatouille recipe?
I've been using Julia Child's perfectly good ratatouille recipe, but I want to try something new. How do you make ratatouille? What's your favorite recipe?
I made ratatouille for a big group (40) last week and, based on reading a couple of different recipes -- including Julia's -- here's what I did:
Sauteed one sliced yellow onion in a large, enameled cast-iron pot with lid.
Added 5 cloves of chopped garlic, about 1/2 cup each of chopped basil and parsley, and two cans of peeled, whole tomatoes, minus about a cup of juice, which I reserved just in case. Set at a simmer.
Cubed 4 globe eggplants, baked on oiled baking sheet with salt and a sprinkle of crushed chile flakes.
Sauteed 4 chopped red bell peppers in olive oil/s&p, set aside.
Sauteed (in the same pan as the peppers) about 8 - 10 assorted zucchini/summer squash in olive oil/s&p.
I had other projects going on, so I'm not sure of the timing, but when the tomatoes were reduced to a good flavor and texture (let's say about juice reduced down about 25%), I added the other vegetables, gave it a good mixing, took it off the heat, covered it and set it at the back of the stove over night. The cast iron held the heat so it all combined gently without getting too mushed together. I did not end up adding any reserved tomato juice.
Very tasty the next day served at room temp, and then leftovers tossed with arugula for a salad the day after that.
Alice Waters's Vegetables book makes the point that ratatouille will be more attractive on the plate if you cook the ingredients separately and stir together shortly before serving. Prep all the ingredients--bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic; saute the onions and garlic and add the tomatoes for just a couple of minutes, sauté the other veg separately in any order you like, season to taste (thyme is good) and combine.
I learned this way from my chef, who learned it from Bertolli, and i've been unable to improve on it. cut your peppers, eggplant, zucchini, red onions and tomatoes into 1-cm dice (equal quantities of each). confit a whack of garlic in canola oil while you're doing that. Strain off the garlic oil (you can use it for croutons, salad dressing...) and puree the garlic. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over HIGH heat, add a good glug of olive oil, and saute the onions until translucent, but don't colour them. add the peppers, saute until they're starting to soften, then add your zucca. stir constantly, but gently. Once the zucca start to soften, add the eggplant, and cook it for about a minute. turn this mixture into a bowl, then add your tomatoes. Hang this mixture in a chinois (or a fine-mesh colander, if you haven't got one) for an hour or so, reserving the juices. (the residual heat will cook the tomatoes) reduce the juices by 50%, whisk in the garlic puree, just as you would if mounting a butter sauce, and fold the liquid into the vegetables. this improves with a day in the refrigerator. to serve, heat a pan over low heat, add a few drops of olive oil and warm the mixture through. just before serving, toss in some chopped thyme, basil, parsley, chives, etc.
Thank you for this! I just made it this evening and am basking in the afterglow of a terrific meal. A very delicious and flavorful stew. I also mounted some butter in the sauce and sprinkled a teaspoon of flour on the veggies to thicken the sauce a little. Sopped it up with crusty baguette bread - yum! Can't wait to try to the roasted veggie version next.
Here's a recipe I've been using for many, many years. I no longer worry much about more than the general proportions of things but the method produces a flavorful and attractive ratatouille.
Recipe By: Saveur, Sept/Oct 1998
Serving Size: 8
3 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 2-inch cubes
4 medium-sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2" pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium-sized yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 medium-sized red, green or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2" strips
6 small tomatos, peeled, seeded and quartered
8 cloves garlic, minced
20 leaves fresh basil
1 bunch fresh parsley, stems trimmed off
8 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly ground black pepper
Put eggplant and zucchini in 2 separate strainers and toss each with 1 tablespoon of salt. Allow to drain for 30 minutes. Blot with paper towels to dry.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 15 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same skillet, increase heat to medium-high, add eggplant, and sauté until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a large heavy pot with a cover and spoon a layer of onions on top. Add 2 tablespoons oil and zucchini to skillet and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to pot and cover with a layer of onions. Add 1 tablespoon oil and peppers to skillet and sauté until edges turn brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to pot and cover with a layer of onions.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet, add tomatoes, garlic and basil, lightly crushing tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to pot, add remaining onions, parsley and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer, partially covered, over low heat, gently stirring occasionally, for an hour and a half. Adjust seasonings, then cook about 30 minutes more.
Actually, I just copied the recipe out of my database. In truth, I do add another handful of fresh basil when I serve it and I add a generous amount of Herbes de Provence as well.
What I like about it is really full flavor from the individual browning of the veggies with some definition left for presentation. The first ratatouille I learned to make had the veggies layered in a cocotte with the firmest at the bottom and the most tender at the top. It simmered for hours and was delicious but "rustic" was a kind word for the visual appeal. But then it's, partly, the rusticity and complexity of honest flavors that are the signal things about ratatouille that I love.
I've seen dozens of recipes, including the roasted version. Personally, I can't imagine if you use these wonderful veggies together you *wouldn't* get something delicious. Some you might serve to company; some you might not. But I'm thinking this is one of those peasant things that's as individual as the cook and as universal as it well-deserves to be.
I *will*, all this said, be trying yours 'cause the roasted garlic sounds wonderful. And the comparison will be fun. Who knows, it might be my new favorite way to make it. ;>
My dad makes ratatouille in the oven, roasting all the vegetables in a pan until caramelized and slightly charred. The tomatoes disintegrate a little, but it's still a dry-style ratatouille.
One of my relatives in Italy makes a very saucy version, practically a tomato stew. She also adds potatoes in there, making it a real entrée-worthy dish.
My favorite way (and easiest) is the same as your dad's. I cut all of the vegs into about 1-2 inch size (not being too anal about it), coat them in olive oil, and roast them . Use whatever combination of eggplant, peppers, onions, summer squashes, garlic is handy. Then I finish them in the stockpot with some added tomato sauce if it's too dry. A splash of vinegar is nice, I don't always use herbs.
For those who enjoy the roast version, I'd recommend taking a look at the Stir-Fried Roasted Eggplant in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I omit the soy, stock and mirin, subbing some diluted Mr. Yoshida's cooking sauce (which contains similar ingredients) and also omit the hot peppers. But the ginger makes this dish extraordinary, IMO, and I need to remember to try adding squash and bell pepper to it, for a ratatouille hybrid.