Ratatouille: the complicated kind
This recipe of ratatouille is a combination of Julia Child’s and Michel Richard’s (the latter shared by Bill Buford in his book “Dirt”). It is more complicated than most people would care to make, but the idea is that cooking all vegetables separately brings out more intense flavour.
I provide both text and videos, both saying essentially the same, so you can either read or watch!
Zucchini (about 3)
Eggplants (1, or more if you like you ratatouille more bitter, or skip them altogether if you want a sweeter version)
Sweet peppers (4, 5 or more)
Tomatoes (in season only, 4 or 5)
Onions (1 large)
Garlic (a couple cloves or more to taste)
Salt and pepper
Parsley or cilantro
1.Prep zucchini and eggplant — in advance
The night before you plan to make the ratatouille, or several hours before, cut up zucchini and eggplants into bite-sized pieces, salt them and put them into a bowl under a press. This will render liquid and create more concentrated flavours. If you want a sweeter taste of your ratatouille, peel the eggplant before using. Note: The press is important for eggplants, but if you are not using eggplants, you don’t have to put the press on top of zuchhini.
2. Brown zucchini and eggplant
Brown zucchini and eggplant in a hot pan with plenty of olive oil. We don’t want to crowd the pan or mix too often. We don’t want to steam the vegetables, but rather encourage the Maillard reaction to get rich and concentrated flavours.
3. Caramelize the onions, slice and roast peppers and tomatoes
Slice one or two large onions and put them into a large casserole with a bit of olive oil over low-medium heat to caramelize.
While they are cooking, pre-heat the oven to 375 F, slice about four large peppers and about four large tomatoes. Arrange them on two cooking sheets without crowding. Salt and toss them with oil on the trays. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until they begin browning. You don’t want them steamed: if your vegetables look boiled rather than roasted, leave them in the oven longer.
4. Add turmeric and garlic
Once the onions are ready, add turmeric (optional) crushed garlic and pepper. I use a whole head of garlic. Once we put all the vegetables together, we will let everything cook, so the taste of garlic won’t be strong. You may not need to add any more salt, as zucchini and eggplant may have enough. Better wait till ratatouille is ready and then add salt if needed.
5. Put everything together
Once the tomatoes and peppers are ready, add them, along with the eggplant and zucchini into the casserole with the onions. Cover, let everything simmer for about 40 minutes for the flavours to combine. First cook covered to let flavours to meddle, then uncover to let the liquid evaporate and get some more of caramelization. I like to finish the ratatouille until there is very little liquid and the vegetables are nicely caramelized, but not burnt. For that, it’s best to use a vessel that will allow some sticking (e.g., not a non-stick pan). I used a cast-iron enameled pan.
6. Serve with parsley or cilantro when ready!
Once the vegetables look like they are cooked, the ratatouille is ready! If there is too much liquid, let it simmer uncovered until the desired level is reached. Serve with parsley or cilantro!