Okay friends, so a few weeks ago, we brought you our quick and easy version of the ratatouille from the Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille. Not content to have replicated the dish mainly in appearance and less so in taste, I decided to tackle the daunting recipe for confit byaldi by the master himself Thomas Keller, the culinary consultant for the movie. In that sense, his recipe is Remy’s ratatouille, so I just had to try it his way. It looks very similar in appearance (and I’ve found that it takes great patience to arrange those concentric slices while your stomach’s growling), but the flavor… it was like the scene in the movie when Remy’s taste buds figuratively exploded from his sensory bonanza. So vastly different in the best way.
As you may notice just from looking at the photo, slicing the vegetables, arranging them in overlapping layers, drizzling with olive oil, sprinkling with salt, garnishing with thyme, topping with parchment circles, and baking for 40 minutes at 375 degrees are all the same as my first version, so in this post, I am going to focus more on the piperade and balsamic reduction, two elements that played a huge role in the dramatic, bold flavors that truly brought out the sweetness and earthiness of the vegetables themselves.
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 orange bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
12 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced OR 1 14-ounce can of tomatoes plus 3-4 fresh tomatoes, diced
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 cup balsamic vinegar
(and a jar in which to store the reduction)
(Adapted from the confit byaldi recipe posted in the New York Times in 2007)
First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the seeds and ribs (the white flesh) from the bell peppers. Arrange on a baking sheet cut side down. Roast until the skin pulls away from the pepper and the edges blacken, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Saute the garlic and onions until the onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes.
When the peppers are done, pull them out of the oven and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle.
Add the tomatoes and thyme to the skillet with the onions and season with a sprinkling of salt. Simmer over low heat to reduce and concentrate the juices until there is very little liquid remaining, about 10-15 minutes. While the sauce is reducing, slice your vegetables and prepare your parchment paper circles. Also, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
By now the peppers should still be warm but manageable. Peel off the skins and chop finely.
Stir in the chopped roasted bell peppers and remove the thyme (leaves are OK but definitely get rid of the thick stems). Now your piperade is ready to go!
Spread a thin layer of the piperade at the bottom of each baking dish, no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
Start layering the vegetables, overlapping the slices but leaving just enough of the underlying layer visible for its color. Brush the top with a bit of olive oil to help keep the exposed squash from drying out. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lay a sprig or two of fresh thyme on top. (If you can’t get fresh thyme, dried would be okay too), Top with your pretty parchment circles and press down gently. The light brushing of oil will help the paper “stick” and stay close to the vegetables.
Bake in the 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes.
Start your balsamic reduction. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once you see large bubbles, drop the heat and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. As the balsamic reduces, it burns more easily, so just keep a watchful eye on it. It is done when it reaches the consistency of honey and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.
When you are a few minutes away from the oven timer going off, start toasting crostini-sized slices of baguette (about 1/2-inch thick, sliced on a bias).
Remove the parchment and the (probably burnt) sprig of thyme before serving. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
Just like last time, this recipe ended up yielding four 5″ diameter ramekins (I used low, fluted creme brulee dishes) plus enough leftover for one 8″ diameter pie dish… about 4-6 servings total.
So what do you think? Which is better, 1?
Or 2? (If these were the kinds of images my optometrist would show me, I might not mind my annual check-ups so much!) (Also, yes – I probably should have cleaned up the ramekin a bit. I think those toasty spots give it a rustic character… no?)