Ratatouille a la Ratatouille

Inspired by the Disney/ Pixar movie Ratatouille (2007), here is my attempt at creating just such a ratatouille dish as they did, as a main course.
Photo for CMC by: Jan-Erik Nilsson © 2009.

A few years ago the movie Ratatouille (2007) by Disney / Pixar came out in the movie theatres. I found that a most inspiring film when it came to cooking despite the fact that the best chef in the movie was a rat, however most adorable!

Ever since I saw that movie, I have been pondering how the actual dish fits with the title of the movie, and my guess has been that the Disney/ Pixar gang probably found the title Rat-atouille witty, so that they based the whole story on that, but was then also stuck with trying to compose a main course out of something that is actually a side dish, similar to salsa. This was a challenging task for the film team since ratatouille is nice, but not really a dish so grand as to be presented as a main course in a gourmet restaurant.

Today when a friend who preferred vegetarian dishes showed up, I thought why not; lets see if it is possible to create something similar to a ratatouille, but one that can work as a main course by itself.

Normally a ratatouille is cooked and stirred towards a very soft consistency, it being a dish that might well be best served with a spoon. In the movie it was served warm with a fork, upright standing in presentation and appearing pretty dry. This is a bit tricky to accomplish since the main ingredients are botanically speaking fruits, and as such they will cook very quickly and also melt or fall apart very easily as soon as they get warm.

So, if we are to make a stand alone ratatouille main course, all this would need to be addressed.

My version of Ratatouille à la Ratatouille

The Ratatouille is known to stem from Provance, so taste wise I decided to situate it somewhere in between Southern France and Northern Italy, and brought out some really good olive oil from San Gimignano, some fresh garlic, a few shallots, and then fried this together into a spicy foundation.

Fresh garlic in a bulb

Two cloves of garlic, chopped up and braised in olive oil together with some shallots.

Chopped shallots

Shallots are actually a kind of lily buds and have a much milder flavour than onions. Braise to taste.

Dark purple aubergine, eggplant

A dark purple aubergine, sliced.

I then sliced up one zucchini, one eggplant and some large tomatoes. The zucchini and eggplant I drizzled with salt and left them for about ten minutes to marinate, to make them softer and more flavourful. The tomato and the zucchini does not need more than a warming to cook, but the aubergine is tougher to cook due to its spongy and air filled cells. So I tried to deal with this difference by using a really fresh aubergine and by sprinkling it with some salt beforehand to make it softer. Due to the difference in cell structures, salting the aubergine is actually more important than salting the zucchini prior to cooking.

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