Admit it. When you watched Pixar’s movie Ratatouille, you secretly kind of wished you could try the title dish. It was so pretty, so interesting, so unusual. And despite the fact that it was technically prepared by an animated rat, you just knew it would be amazing. Okay. So maybe that was just me.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the dish wasn’t really ratatouille but a version of it called Confit Biyaldi created by Michel Guerard and then adapted by Thomas Keller specifically for the movie Ratatouille. The difference between the two being that Guerard’s dish called for the sliced vegetables to be fried and mushrooms were used instead of peppers, while Keller’s sliced vegetables were baked and the peppers were incorporated into a piperade, or a sauce made with peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
Knowing that my family would never touch anything made with peppers– alas it’s a love that only I have (read that as Ha ha! More bell peppers for me), I opted to fuse together Keller’s recipe and Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen’s version, losing the peppers from Perelman’s in favor of the tomatoes from Keller’s and trading Keller’s piperade for a variation of Perelman’s garlic infused tomato sauce.
The result– a dish worthy of making three times in less than two weeks in a house full of confirmed vegephobes. And while it didn’t transport me back to my days as a peasant boy in the French countryside (which would be quite the trick since I am neither male nor and have I ever been to France), it was enough to make me close my eyes and say Mmmmmm.
Confit Biyaldi –or- Faux Ratatouille
1 tbsp. butter
½ yellow onion, diced
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 sprig of thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 (5-6 oz. total) yellow squash
1 (5-6 oz.) eggplant
1 (5-6 oz.) zucchini
2 vine-ripe tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves
Make the sauce:
In a skillet, melt butter and sauté the diced onions until they’re translucent.
Remove the pan from heat. In a medium sauce pan combine the tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme leaves, and sautéed onions.
Simmer the sauce for approximately 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Biyaldi:
Slice the eggplant,
and tomatoes(which for some reason I didn’t photograph) approximately 1/16 of an inch thick. I used a sharp knife, but if you have a mandolin, go for it.
Layer the slices over paper towels.
Lightly salt them and place paper towels on top.
This draws out any extra moisture. Also, salting the eggplant is supposed to draw out some of the bitterness that the vegetable sometimes has. Honestly, I can’t speak too much about this since I’ve never had eggplant before, but I learned it on America’s Test Kitchen, so it must be true.
Let them sit for an hour or so, and then remove them from the paper towels. They will be noticeably drier and thinner– though not so dry that the dish isn’t moist; it just isn’t mushy and soupy.
I wouldn’t advise putting all of the vegetables in one dish before assembling. I’ve made this a few times now, and I’ve found keeping them separate and sorted to size makes assembling the dish much easier. You also probably won’t use all of the vegetables. Save the leftover veggies or make two confit biyaldis or toss the veggies into a salad or give them away. Whatever makes you happy.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Pour approximately one half of the sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish, spreading it across the bottom evenly. Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving.
I used a 9-inch ceramic tart pan. Alternately layer the vegetables in concentric circles, beginning at the outside of the dish.
I made and photographed this dish twice for this post, so if the vegetables look like they’re reversing directions, it’s because they are. I’ve yet to lay the vegetables in the same direction, but I like layering them in the order eggplant, squash, tomato, zucchini– colorful and alphabetical all at the same time.
Once the vegetables are arranged, brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle thyme leaves, salt, and pepper across the top of the vegetables.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of the top of the dish. I find it easier to set the dish on top of the parchment and trace around it with a knife rather than a pencil. Of course, this might not be good for the knife or my countertops. Hmmm.
Place the parchment on top of the vegetables.
Roast them in the oven for 50-55 minutes until vegetables are tender but not mushy and slightly browned.
Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. Serve the vegetables and reserved sauce over basic white rice.
Yield: 4-6 servings; we haven’t had leftovers yet
Image to Pin: