Do you have a mandolin slicer? If you do you can make a really stunning ratatouille in no time flat. I’ve got that ratatouille recipe for you right here!
Ratatouille the Food, not Ratatouille the Movie
First, you don’t have to be Patton Oswalt, or a rat, or an anthropomorphized rat voiced by Patton Oswalt to make ratatouille. You can be just a regular human person. I’m a regular human person and I made this ratatouille. See? So you can too.
Why do I mention this? Because over 800,000 people search Google for Ratatouille each month, and most of those those people aren’t looking for an eggplant casserole.
How Can a Fancy Looking Ratatouille Recipe be Easier than a Not-So-Fancy Ratatouille Recipe?
Obviously Julia has a ratatouille recipe. Yes. That Julia. The tall American Spy.
Now, as I’ve noted several times in the past in this blog (e.g., in this Bouillabaisse recipe and this Provincial Style Eggplant Gratin recipe), while Julia’s recipes are usually quite delicious, they take like a day and a half to make.
So guess what I thought when I read Julia’s cautionary line in The Art of French Cooking: “A really good ratatouille is not a one of the quickest dishes to make…”
Oh no! Here we go! Let’s read on, shall we? Here’s the first step in Julia Child’s ratatouille recipe:
- Quit your job. If you have vacation plans, cancel them. If you’re engaged to be married, break it off. If you have children send them off to boarding school in another country. You’re not going to have enough time for that nonsense any more. You’re making ratatouille.
Kidding! Julia doesn’t want you to get rid of your kids to make ratatouille. That’s just silly. These are her actual first steps:
- Peel a large eggplant and dice it into 25 – 35 identically sized cubes. Salt them well and allow them to sit for one hour. Rinse the eggplant under cold water and tumble dry on gentle cycle in your clothes drier.
- Slowly poach the 25 – 35 eggplant cubes in olive oil one at a time over the course of the next 12 hours.
Still kidding! Julia doesn’t cook with a clothes dryer! But I think you get my point.
Why Traditional Ratatouille Recipes take so Long to Make
Two things make ratatouille a pain in the ass:
- You don’t fry the vegetables. You slowly poach them in olive oil. That’s a slow process–especially in a skillet on a stove top.
- If you’re an OCD French chef, you insist upon cooking each type of vegetable separately, so their flavors stay pure and don’t mingle with the other vegetable flavors. Then in the end you put them together.
Now truth be told, that slow oil poach thing is awesome. I recommend you try it some time when you have a day to kill. But that last part especially is just too much. You want to keep the flavors from mingling in a dish that mixes a bunch of vegetables together. Okay…
A Faster, Sexier Ratatouille Recipe
You see those tomato slices in that photo above? You have to admit that I have mad, mad knife skills. So uniform. So thin. So perfect.
HA! All I do is kid in this post. I didn’t cut that stuff with a knife. I used a mandolin! Not the hillbilly instrument. I mean the fancy vegetable slicing machine. A mandolin makes really quick work of ratatouille ingredients.
The bell pepper is a bit strange to deal with if you’re making a very thin slice. I simply left out the pepper. I’m probably going to hell for it too in some people’s minds. If you’re a purist.put the big bell pepper rings in there and good luck. But remember, my goal here is easy ratatouille.
Now slather all of those veggies in olive oil and garlic and herbs, and stack them artfully on their edges in a round casserole. Now bake it. Done. Easy peasy. And so fancy looking.
Go forth and break out your mandolin. Everyone will be extremely impressed with you. If you don’t have a mandolin? I dunno. Make something easier I guess. Or maybe quit your job…
- 2 Medium Sized Eggplants (Aubergines)
- 1 Large Zucchini
- 2-3 Medium Tomatoes
- 1 Large Onion
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Chopped Thyme
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Slice all vegetables crosswise, very thinly, with a mandolin (the mandolin is key to making this dish easy). Ideally you want these vegetables (and fruit if you want to be technical about the tomato) should be close to the same diameter.
- Drizzle vegetables with the olive oil. Carefully coat each piece with oil, taking care not to let the eggplant soak it all up before you succeed.
- Sprinkle vegetables with salt, the garlic, and the thyme.
- In a small round casserole, arrange the vegetables on their edge in alternating stacks, starting from the outside. Alternate slices of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and onion to distribute fairly uniformly. Once an outer ring of vegetables is stacked, make an inner ring to completely fill the casserole.
- Bake in the oven until tender and the tops begin to brown (about 1 hour).