Around the World in 80 Dishes: Ratatouille


In our ongoing video series Chef Lou Jones, from The Culinary Institute of America, demonstrates how to make classic ratatouille from Provence , France

Watch Chef Lou Jones making Ratatouille here

In these videos, The Culinary Institute of America's Associate Dean of Restaurant Education, Chef Lou Jones, shows us how to make ratatouille, a vegetable stew that typically contains onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, all slow-cooked in olive oil.

This classic Provençal dish originated in Nice but is now found all over southeastern France , according to the culinary encyclopedia Larousse Gastronomique. The name "apparently derived from ratouiller and tatouiller, two expressive forms of the French verb touiller, meaning to stir up," explains Alan Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food. Davidson notes that ratatouille "achieved international currency during the 20th century, from a standing start as a local dish of the region of Nice" not recorded in print until around 1930. He partly attributes its explosion in popularity to how easy it is to make and the fact that it can be eaten hot or cold.

The vegetables can be cooked individually and then combined, or cooked all together (Larousse Gastronomique note that purists insist on cooking the vegetables separately then combining them and cooking until they achieve a creamy consistency). Chef Jones roasts zucchini, eggplant, fennel, red and yellow peppers, and garlic to concentrate their flavors, dices them, and then binds them with a tomato sauce. The sauce clings to the vegetables and unifies the dish.

Ratatouille can be served at any temperature and its flavors improve over time, so make plenty for leftovers. It is a wonderful side dish for chicken, fish, roasts, omelets, and just about any other simple main course.

Recipe:

Ratatouille

Epicurious | November 2008

by Chef Lou Jones

Yield: Makes 8 servings

This recipe calls for a thin, freshly made tomato sauce. Using this sauce will produce the best flavor and texture, but in a pinch you could substitute any plain canned sauce.

Ingredients

1 bulb fennel, stalks discarded

3 red bell peppers, pierced with tip of knife

3 yellow bell peppers, pierced with tip of knife

2 medium zucchini, quartered

1 medium eggplant, quartered

About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 head garlic

2 cups tomato sauce

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In large saucepan over moderately high heat, bring 2 quarts salted water to boil. Add fennel and boil until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and eggplant with olive oil and transfer to large baking sheet. Cut off top 1/2 inch from garlic head. Wrap in foil and transfer to baking sheet alongside vegetables.

When fennel is tender, use tongs to transfer to sheet and rub with oil. Roast vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender and slightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer roasted peppers to large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let all vegetables stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Peel and deseed peppers, then finely dice. Remove seeds from zucchini and finely dice. Finely dice eggplant. Core fennel and finely dice.

In large saucepan over moderately high heat, combine diced roasted vegetables and tomato sauce. Squeeze garlic from skins into pan. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened with very little liquid remaining, about 10 minutes.

Stir in basil, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve immediately.

Text by Megan O. Steintrager, illustrations by Matthew Brennan, photo by CIA/Keith Ferris

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