The following is a guest post from FB Hubby and the first recipe for $15 or less.
“Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious.” – Linguini
$15 Dollar Dinner Challenge
We like to do Friday night movie night at home. This can be tricky with a 7-year-old as it limits our choices. We always try to find something new, make some popcorn, and enjoy ourselves. So what this all leading to? Well in addition to the FB $15 dinner challenges, my family often likes to challenge me to make new dishes. A couple of years ago, our then 5-year-old son asked me to make ratatouille for dinner after he had seen the movie. I looked up some recipe and made it. It did not taste like ratatouille; it tasted like rat-patootie. It was certainly not delicious. It was awful. I mean really terrible. We could not understand how Ego thought this was such a great meal. So here we are, a couple of years later, watching the movie, and what does my son ask? “Daddy, can you make ratatouille for dinner tomorrow night?” Shannon immediately gives me that “Remember last time” look. However, I reluctantly agree.
I was determined to do a better job this time, so I actually decided to do a little research. I looked on the internet for any mention of the version of ratatouille that Remy used in the movie. And it turns out the recipe comes from the great chef Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. He was actually a consultant on the film and apparently allowed the film’s producer, Brad Lewis, to intern in the French Laundry kitchen. In case you have not heard of the French Laundry, it is one of the best restaurants in the world. Certainly not a place to try on a budget and apparently you actually need to make reservations something like 6 months in advance.
Discovery of the Real Remy Ratatouille
Having discovered the origin of the Ratatouille recipe, I looked it up (it is called Confit Byaldi, in case you want to see it yourself). The first ingredient was Piperade, which I had to then look up. Something you should know about me is that I get frustrated when I am required to find something that is not easily available. Piperade is a tomato recipe in of itself that requires a bunch of other work and at least 30 minutes to just make that part. So I looked at a few other recipes and decided to do a couple of substitutions.
Also, to get the really thin slices, Remy used a mandolin. I actually do have one, but found it to be not all that necessary. Finally, the great thing about animation is that anything can be done. The fact that Remy’s slices of ingredients all sliced perfectly in size and shape will not be accomplished in yours or my kitchen. I don’t think the French Laundry can even pull that off.
Persistance Pays Off
That next night, I cooked up the ratatouille. Shannon thought it might be a good idea to cook up some pasta on the side. She said this loud enough for my son’s sake, but we both knew the plan. If ratatouille was going to once again be rat-patootie, we wanted a back-up plan. It came out of the oven and smelled good. I plated it up, including trying to spoon a little of the tomato sauce around it, just like Remy. We decided to put on the movie Ratatouille again, and all took a bite. It was awesome, and not just because we had such low expectations going in. Our son ate the whole thing and loved it. Much like Ego, we will be returning to this recipe with great anticipation.
Ratatouille Remy Style – Total Cost = $13!
1-1/2 cups Pomi strained tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as you can
½ yellow onion, diced
1 eggplant, sliced into thin circles
1 large yellow squash, sliced into thin circles
1 large zucchini, sliced into thin circles
1 large red pepper, sliced as best you can into strips (remove all seeds)
2-3 Tbls Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375. Get a round or oval baking dish and some parchment paper (not necessary if you don’t have it). Cut the parchment paper in the shape of the dish so it will be the same size. Do this before adding anything to the dish, trust me, it is a pain to do afterwards.
- In the round or oval baking dish, pour the strained tomatoes, add garlic, onion, and one tablespoon of olive oil, along with some salt and pepper. Mix and spread it around so it is even across the bottom of the baking dish.
- Now for the fun and tricky part, start arranging the sliced eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and red pepper around the dish. I made them in groups in the order I just mentioned, first the eggplant, then the yellow squash, then the zucchini, and then the red pepper. Make them spiral around the dish until you get to the middle. I made sure they were not flat, but partially standing, leaning at an angle. Once I had made a first spiral to the middle, I found I had more slices still left, so I just tucked and moved things around until I had used them all up.
- Once the spiral was complete, drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the top of the spiral. Sprinkle on more salt and pepper. Take about 4 sprigs of thyme, peel off the leaves, and spread the leaves all over the spiral. Use more if you need it. Place the parchment paper over the top of the spiral and put in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes and serve. (Several recipes mention serving it with rice, but we serve it with pasta).