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Friday, August 28, 2009

ratatouille! or, confit byaldi!

i woke up tuesday morning the same way i do most every morning-- thinking about remnants of ingredients and what to do with them. having portions of an eggplant and zucchini, and a couple of ripe tomatoes, i thought i'd stew it all up into a ratatouille. this reminded me that i hadn't seen pixar's movie "ratatouille" in at least 6 months (there was a period of time when i suggested it every weekend), so i made some tea and settled in on the couch. every time i see it, i marvel at the attention to cooking detail. it's as if i'm watching a chef and staff in a real parisian kitchen rather than pixar-generated characters.

the movie ends with our hero, remy, serving his version of ratatouille to a monster of a food critic. when i saw his creation, i realized that i didn't want to just throw some vegetables in a pot, i wanted to cook THAT. a little internet research later and i learned that remy's ratatouille was actually chef thomas keller's confit byaldi. he was a consultant on the movie, which explains the authenticity. (those kids at pixar-- they are clever, clever souls...)

i found the recipe, published by the new york times, here. it's basically thin-sliced squash, tomato, and eggplant layered over a tomato and roasted pepper sauce and baked for a few hours, served with a drizzle of vinaigrette. i served it with artisan cheeses and crackers.

for such simple ingredients, i was expecting a much less powerful flavor-- but this dish was extremely flavorful and rich! the long, slow cooking time and the layers of flavors and seasonings must be responsible. i'll definitely make this again, with these changes:

1) i had too much olive oil in the piperade. "oily" is never good.

2) i forgot the yellow squash this time, but i think the addition of another color in this dish would be lovely.

3) i forgot a cooking step! after the first 2 hours in the oven covered, you uncover and bake for 30 minutes. i completely skipped over this step and didn't realize it until reading over the recipe again when starting this post! it needed those 30 minutes to dry out a bit-- as it was, it was kinda soupy on the plate.

4) a bigger pan would work better than the size i used. the vegetables are painfully thin, so even filling up a medium sized casserole with them only yields 2 decent sized servings. 3+ hours to make 2 servings of vegetables is a little outside of my efficiency range. besides, it tasted so good it's worth having leftovers.

really-- when your dinner starts off looking like this, can you go wrong?

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