If you’ve seen the Pixar movie Ratatouille, you’ll witness not only one of the cutest animated movies around, but a beautiful take on French food that features one perfect dish of Ratatouille. While it’s traditionally made with small chopped pieces of vegetables and stewed together, this version of the dish was inspired by Chef Thomas Keller of acclaimed restaurant The French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. Be warned, this dish took plenty of time in the kitchen, about 4 hours from start to finish if you’re working on your own.
The basic ingredients are fresh vegetables. We sourced our tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, Chinese eggplants, onion and garlic from Specialty Produce. The first thing to get started is the Tomatoes. Start by scoring bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Then, score the tomatoes with a small X on each side and place into the water. Fill a separate large bowl with ice cubes and add water, this will shock the tomatoes and help stop them from cooking.
When the skins just begin to peel at the edges, carefully remove the tomatoes and place them in the ice bath. When they’ve cooled, use a paring knife to help peel away the skins. They should come off cleanly, leaving you with a perfectly firm and peeled tomato.
To finish the tomatoes, make sure you have a very sharp knife and slice them as thinly as possible. We were able to get about 6 slices from a medium sized tomato. When the tomatoes are done, we started on the bell peppers. Slice the peppers into large strips and remove the seeds and ribs from the inside. Then, lay the peppers out on a baking sheet and lightly coat the skin side with a neutral oil such as vegetable oil. The peppers then go into a 450 degree oven until they start to char on the outer skin side. Once they’re done, remove them and set aside to cool. When the peppers are room temperature, use your paring knife to help peel away the skins, leaving only the sweet roasted peppers behind.
Now it’s time to start preparing the rest of the vegetables. The best way to get a perfect uniform slice is to use a mandolin. You can pick up an inexpensive one here: Ceramic Adjustable Mandolin Slicer and easily set it to about 1/8in thickness (3mm). If you’re using a mandolin for the first time, be careful with the very sharp blade. Simply slice the zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash into even slices and set aside. Keep the small end parts as we will add them to our red-pepper Piperade.
After all the vegetables are sliced, dice the onion and 4 cloves of garlic. Sauté the onion, garlic and chopped leftover vegetables until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Then, chop the roasted red bell peppers and add them along with canned crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and fresh thyme, flat-leaf parsley and a bay leaf. Stir to combine everything and continue cooking for 10 minutes more. Once everything is incorporated, carefully put the mixture into a blender and blend until it becomes a smooth and consistent sauce.
Now that everything is ready to go, the last step is also the most fun, assembly! Lay down a thin layer of Piperade on the bottom of a large oven-safe pot or baking dish. Aim for the thickness of pizza sauce. Then working from the outside in, arrange alternating slices of tomato, zucchini, squash and eggplant. We made stacks of vegetables and then laid them in the pot. Once your make a complete circle, carefully work your way to the inside and continue until the pattern is complete. Then cover with a piece of parchment paper, allowing room for the vegetables to breathe and bake at 275 degrees for 2 hours.
Then remove the parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes more to develop that deeply roasted look to your vegetables. If you’re serving straight from the pot, just sprinkle with chopped parsley and that’s it!
For a more elegant plating, as seen in the Ratatouille movie, we’re going to need a ring mold. This is a great one if you don’t already own one, 4.5-Inch Round Stainless Steel Cutter/Ring Mold. Also a quick vinaigrette with equal parts of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Piperade whisked together with salt, pepper, and some fresh thyme makes the perfect garnish. To serve, carefully pick up several layers using a spatula and lay them into the ring mold, turning as you go to arrange them into a spiral pattern. Then drizzle the vinaigrette over the top or around the plate and finish with chopped parsley. It’s a lot of work, but one of the most rewarding and delicious dishes we’ve done!
- 2-3 Red Bell Peppers
- 4 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Large Yellow Onion
- 3 Green Zucchini
- 3 Yellow Zucchini/Squash
- 3 Chinese Eggplant
- 12 Tomatoes
- Fresh Thyme
- Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley
- 1 Fresh Bay Leaf
- Olive Oil
- Vegetable Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar