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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ratatouille, Tian or Confit Byaldi: Great Company Food

Whether they know it or not, most people have probably had ratatouille, the French dish of cooked vegetables. In the cartoon movie "Ratatouille," the chef Remy, who is a rat (literally) makes the title dish at the end of the movie. To help the director show a fancy version of ratatouille, real-life famous chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry; Boulud, Per Se, Ad Hoc) made a version called Confit Byaldi.

Like ratatouille, Confit Byaldi is made with zucchini, tomato and eggplant, but they are sliced very thinly and arranged neatly in rows or a spiral in the dish. It reminded us of a Tian that we make from Ina Garton's "Barefoot Contessa" book. The Tian contains potatoes instead of eggplant, is sliced slightly thicker and is layered in neat rows on top of a sauteed onion and herb base.

The Confit Byaldi veggies are layered neatly on top of a piperade, which adds roasted yellow, red, and orange peppers and tomatoes to the onions.

We made one the other night and absolutely loved it. It is a good vegetarian main dish or would work as a side for everything from grilled fish to roasted chicken to medium rare steak. Here is Thomas Keller's recipe for
Confit Byaldi:

The Piperade
1/2 roasted red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 roasted yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 roasted orange pepper, seeded and chopped
(you can substitute whatever colors you find)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onion3 tomatoes (12 ounces total) peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat leaf parsley
1/2 of a bay leaf
kosher salt

In a medium skillet over low heat, add olive oil, garlic and onion. Heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Add tomatoes, thyme, peppers, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very little juice remains, about 10 minutes. Reserve a Tablespoon and spread remainder in bottom of a large oven dish or 8-12-inch skillet.

1 zucchini, sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1 Japanese or chinese eggplant, sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash, sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
4 roma tomatoes, sliced in 1/16-inch rounds1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350. In oven dish or skillet (with piperade on the bottom), arrange vegetables in a spiral, starting on the outside and alternating different kinds of veggies so that 1/4-inch of each slice is exposed. Continue the spiral around and in toward the center until the dish is filled (below). You might not use all of the vegetables. Mix garlic, oil and thyme in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and crimp edges to seal.
Bake until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and bake about 30 minutes more. If using as a main dish, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top for these last 30 minutes of baking.

When it comes out of the oven, you can serve it. Or, you can cover, refrigerate and warm later in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. The official recipe calls for a vinaigrette to be drizzled over the byaldi when it's served, but we've never felt the need to do this. The vinaigrette is made with the reserved tablespoon of piperade, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme and chervil, and Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.


  1. So, what happens to the reserved tablespoon of the piperade?

  2. Courtney,
    Good catch. We all need an editor. The reserved tablespoon of piperade goes into the vinaigrette. I've changed the post to reflect that. (I forgot it because we've never felt the need for the vinaigrette. It tastes delicious without it, especially when you've added a little parmesan for protein when it is a main course.

  3. Wow - the picture is beautiful. I agree - this would be a great dish for company!

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