Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cooking With Frank - Ratatouille

So we figured to redeem our mess ups at work this week we would do a blog post on food, a food we enjoy.

Ratatouille, what is it besides a movie put out by Disney/Pixar?

Oh wait. How did we mess up at work? Well...first of all we were tasked to make some pots de creme (a French custard dessert), so we got all the ingredients together on the recipe that was given to us. Cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla bean. We mixed the eggs and sugar and brought the cream to a boil and them tempered (tempering eggs, is adding a small amount of a hot liquid a bit at a time into a beaten egg mixture to warm them up without scrambling them) the egg mixture, and just as we poured the last bit of cream into the bowl we glanced at the recipe, because we were looking at the mixture thinking "This doesn't seem right" and sure enough... what said 2 1/4 CUPS had been mistaken by one of us for 2 1/4 LITERS. We had multiplied the recipe by 2, so instead of 4 1/2 cups of cream we had used 4 1/2 LITERS! 

Figuring we were screwed we tried to think of a way out of it and decided we would just reheat the liquid, crack some more eggs (a combination of whole eggs and extra yolks). So now the mixture had 4 1/2 Liters of cream, 8 whole eggs and 12 egg yolks. We tempered the new mixture and put it in ramekins (a small ceramic pot used for things like individual desserts) in a hotwater bath (placing the ramekins in a pan and filling the pan halfway with boiling water).

All looked fine, until after they cooked....the tops bubbled and it was a mini disaster, even though they tasted fine, the texture was strange and as far as the sous chef was concerned it was a fail. He was also not thrilled with the wasted ingredients, and so we are to redo them on Monday (*fingers crossed*). Too much cream AND we used the wrong oven (nobody had told us what oven to use, so that's a moot point).

That same day we managed to knock a dish of sauce onto the floor and splatter it around the kitchen, the guy who works at our station with us was very impressed with the distance of the splatters. He cleaned it up for us though, and the dishwasher mopped the floor. Hey, we were fixing an important piece of appliance, not like we were standing around doing nothing while they cleaned up our mess.

Fun times.

So, now back to the Ratatouille.

In the restaurant scene of the movie Ratatouille (great movie, by the way) the dish looks all fancy, but in the scene where he is a child you will see it served in a rustic style. That's the kind we like to make...who needs fancy as long as it tastes amazing?! Rustic style, country style...this dish reigns from France and is a traditional stewed vegetable dish from the Proven├žal region (Nice, France, to be more specific). It's super easy to make and very comforting.

The Ingredients:

  • Mushrooms - cut into halves, quarters or sixths, your choice, depending on how big the mushroom is.
  • Garlic - 1 whole clove
The Raw Ingredients
A half of each of the following:
  • Eggplant - cup into cubes of desired size [sprinkle with salt and drain in a strainer, eggplant has a lot of moisture and it's not always helpful in a dish]
  • Zucchini - cut into cubes or small rounds
  • Red Bell Pepper - cut into 1/2" diced cubes
  • Green Bell Pepper - cut into 1/2" diced cubes
  • Celery - cut into 1/4-1/2" dice
  • Onions - cut into 1/2" cubes

  • Tomatoes - a can of stewed tomatoes will do, size depends on how much sauce you want.
  • Olive Oil - about 1 Tablespoon
  • Thyme - dried works, add during cooking. If using fresh add at the end. Dried needs to be added int he middle to make time for the release of the flavours.
  • Salt & Pepper - as desired
  • Basil - as desired for garnish.
  • Oh, and if you have some vegetable (or chicken) stock kicking around you can use it by adding it to the tomatoes as the sauce reduces. It'll add some extra tastiness...but beware that evil sodium!
What To Do With The Stuff:
In Process
So, cut up all those first eight (set aside the onion) ingredients and set aside. The nice thing about those is many times you'll have those things lying around (if you are the type to buy fresh vegetables), and you may even have half of some of them on hand, especially if you don't have a big family. All we had to do is buy a green pepper, a small eggplant and one stalk of celery (because we knew we wouldn't end up eating a whole bunch of it even if we bought it)

In a skillet (preferably oven safe) saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent (maybe around 3 minutes) add the vegetables (we recommend adding the harder vegetables a couple of minutes before the softer ones) that you cut up, after a couple of minutes add the tomatoes (and thyme, if using dried). and let simmer until it reaches the desired consistency (we covered the pan with tin foil and put it in the oven to simmer while the chicken baked. If you are using fresh thyme throw it in about 2 minutes or so before you plan to take it off of the stove.

What else do you serve with this?
Final Product: Ratatouille on Rotini Pasta,
Oregano Baked Chicken and Sauteed  Red Cabbage
Well...we made spiral pasta to serve because it's what we had in the cupboard and we like to try to improvise using things we have around. You could serve it with polenta, which is amazingly easy to make (we'll probably do an entry on that one day, polenta is tasty AND inexpensive) - you can also serve it with rice or bread. It's pretty versatile. There are many variations on it too, so you can pretty much make it how you like it.

Serve with a side salad and some meat , red, white, fish...the dish can be a side or a main. 
We chose chicken drumsticks (pretty unanimously our favorite part of the chicken, then the thighs, and roasted chicken is tasty when we make it and some of us hate chicken all together.

For a vegetable we had finely diced back bacon, red onion and apples sauteed with some red cabbage.

Other Cooking Related Blog Posts:
Cooking With Frank (we tell you how to make venison tenderloin, and some sides)
Cooking Shepherds Pie With Us, Drunk (that must have been fun for whoever was doing that)

All Images (c) 2011 Frank Ly et al

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