I Made the Ratatouille from Ratatouille for My Students

Rémy's ratatouille!
Another semester has come and gone. At the end of each one, regardless what happens during the term, I am always overcome with wanting to hug each of my students and send them out into the world with a macaron. Maybe two.

This class was no exception. Despite a rough and rocky start, I finally learned to relax around them after Spring Break. The change was very welcome. I started spending less time freaking out planning my lessons and more time enjoying talking about some of the topics that interest me the most: history and process, food and memory, taste and identity, sustainability and individual responsibility,  inspiration and experimentation.

The first time that I taught a class on French food, it was the summer that the movie Ratatouille came out. I saw the movie by myself before accompanying two separate groups of students to the theater. Maybe it was the summer heat, or maybe my brain was addled from having seen the movie three times in a row, but I remember standing on the subway platform and cooing at a big, fat rat. “Oooooooh!!!” I squealed, “Look at the cutie pie! He’s got a . . . Subway sandwich!!!! Awwwwwww!!!”

Is it surprising to hear that people moved away from me?

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Ratatouille is a marvel of a movie, a treasure trove of tidbits that you can use to teach French food and culture. Want to explain a brigade by showing a kitchen hierarchy? Want to show the importance of technique and apprentissage? Want to begin a discussion about whether or not cuisine is an art form? Want to perfectly represent archetypal figures of French gastronomy like the stubborn chef, the restaurant critic, or the gastronome? Want to kick off a conversation about Proust? Want it in French and English?

Ratatouille is the movie for you!

As some of you might know, Thomas Keller was the consulting chef for the film. His reinterpretation of the classic ratatouille was also a re-imagining of a popular Turkish dish called İmam bayıldı, which literally means “the imam fainted (because it was so darn good).” Keller’s ratatouille was first published in The French Laundry Cookbook as an accompaniment to guinea fowl. This “crêpinette de byaldi” subsequently morphed into the confit byaldi featured in the film.

Unlike the traditional ratatouille for which all the vegetables are either stewed together or layered in the same pot and simmered until soft, Keller’s version has you make a simple pipérade over which you artfully layer very thin slices of eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and tomato. It takes a little bit more work, but the result is something much more elegant.

I deviated from the original recipe in order to keep the dish’s preparation more in line with the one seen in the movie. The recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook has you cover the confit with aluminum foil and tightly crimp it around the dish. However, I didn’t want a watery ratatouille, so I cut parchment paper to fit and laid it on top of the confit —  just like Rémy.

This single dish probably has the greatest carbon-footprint out of any that I have made this year. None of the vegetables are in season. All of them were grown in Peru, with the exception of the tomatoes which came from Holland. However, I wanted to serve my students something that they have been seeing and talking about all semester.

Unfortunately, they polished it off before I could even get a taste of the finished product. I assume it was good, but I have also seen students eat all kinds of weird stuff! In any case, I look forward to revisiting this recipe later in the summer when local eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and squash are around.


For the pipérade

Olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 herb sachet made from a sprig of fresh parsley, a sprig of fresh thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and a bay leaf tied up in a cheesecloth bundle.

Salt and freshly-ground white pepper

To assemble the final dish

4 Roma tomatoes, thinly-sliced

1 small eggplant, thinly-sliced

1 yellow squash, thinly-sliced into rounds

1 zucchini, thinly-sliced into rounds

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, minced

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground white pepper

How to prepare:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 325°.

2. To prepare the pipérade, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Sauté them until they just begin to soften. Add the diced yellow bell peppers and the herb sachet. Continue to cook the vegetables until they are soft, but not browned. Remove and discard the sachet. Adjust the seasoning.

3. Spread the pipérade in an even layer in the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish. Begin arranging the sliced vegetables over it. You can either do this in rows like I did, or you can create a circular pattern by starting at the edges of the dish and moving towards the center. In any case, you want to alternate and overlap the vegetable slices so that they create a pleasing design.

4. Mix together the garlic, thyme, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small dish. sprinkle this mixture over the vegetables.

5. Cut a piece of parchment paper to lay on top of the confit. Press it down gently to adhere. Roast the confit until the vegetables have cooked through (the eggplant will take the longest). This should take between 45 minutes to an hour. It might even take over an hour. In all honesty, I can’t really remember since I was a couple of beers in by then. Just start checking it around the 45 minute mark!

6. Remove from the oven and let it cool. The confit can be served hot, warm, or cold.


52 thoughts on “I Made the Ratatouille from Ratatouille for My Students

  1. brie

    I was dying to see the movie but my kids told me it was for “young children” (which clearly they no longer were!). That recipe looks amazing! I am getting hungry just looking at it! and I bet it tastes “so darn good”!!!

    • baconbiscuit212

      For young children?! Well, you can let them know that tons of fancy NYC college students enjoyed the movie very much 🙂

      I hope it tasted good. I didn’t manage to get a bite of it before it was gone.

      On a side-note, I have also heard that the imam in question fainted because his wife used the most expensive olive oil in the land to cook it 🙂

  2. poodle

    I love that movie! I’m going to have to try making this dish your way. It looks wonderful. I usually toss everything in the pot and let it cook. Your way definitely has a nicer presentation.

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you Poodle! I used to always make ratatouille that way too. This way is fussier, but I do have to say that by thinly slicing it, everything cooks more evenly. Plus, it looks prettier 🙂 Let me know if you give it a try!

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you so much! I’m surprised more people don’t do it. One of the things that bothers me the most about a lot of ratatouille is that the chunks of eggplant never seem completely cooked through. Thinly slicing the vegetables brilliantly solves the problem.

      If I were doing individual plates, I would of used ring molds. Of course 🙂

  3. Bunny Eats Design

    I LOVED this movie. You did a lovely job with this dish. How thin are those slices?! They look semi-transparent.

    You are such a sweetie. Any student would be lucky to have you. I remember reading about your lamb stew for The Hunger Games. I immediately bought the book because of your post and I’m not one of those people that usually do that. I read that book while I was hungry and made the food bits so much more decadent. It was a shame that food wasn’t a big deal in the movie, but thank you for the heads up.

    I adore foodie movies and gobble them up like they are fresh baked cookies. I’ve compiled a huge list of food related movies that I hope to do something with one day. I believe it’s more extensive and up to date than any list that is currently out there.

    I got a couple of comp tickets to Haute Cuisine which is showing here at the moment but I haven’t seen it yet. Have you seen it? It’s French and Foodie.

    • baconbiscuit212

      Aww! Thank you so much, Genie! Yes, those slices are very thin. Maybe a little too thin. I did the yellow squash and the zucchini with a mandoline, and after some reconsideration, went back to a trusty sharp knife for the rest.

      I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed the Hunger Games too! Looking forward to the second movie — partly for the movie, but mostly for the pre-movie dinner I have planned 🙂 Hopefully the upcoming movie will feature more food . . .

      Speaking of Haute Cuisine, I missed it! It was at the Tribeca Film Festival so now I guess I just have to wait till it comes out for real. Do let me know how it is! It’s supposed to be about Francois Mitterand, right? I have a radio program about his last meal. Ortolans. Endangered and . . . well, you’ll see/hear 🙂

  4. heidiskye333

    Well, I have to admit that I don’t (gasp!) like Ratatouille but your preparation sounds pretty amazing and beautiful! Wasn’t Ratatouille originally a peasants dish? (I hope my culinary memory just served me correctly right there.) I loved the movie! I think I spent half of it nudging Hubby in the ribs and saying, ” The kitchen is really like this!” I’m glad that your students finally came to appreciate you for the incredible person you are! Any college would be privileged to have you!

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you, Heidiskye333! Yes, very much a traditional Provençal dish. Not meant to be fancy at all, but I love this kind of deconstructed take on it.

      It’s fantastic how the kitchen is presented. They really got it right.

      I hope that my students enjoyed the course. Just wanted to the course evaluations . . . In any case, thank you for the kind words and all your support!

  5. lucasai

    I love that Ratatouille movie, I watched it several times and never got bored doing so.
    And yout ratatouille looks so delicious, will you send me a bite (along with a macaron please!) 🙂

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you, Susan! Yes, well I do love a good food geek out 🙂 I have also been salivating over your food as well. Given that I haven’t had much time to cook this semester, your photos have allowed me to eat vicariously through you 🙂

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you, Carine! In all honesty, I think I ended up learning more from my students than they learned from me! I just hope they enjoyed the class and are inspired to think about food a little differently.

      I do have to say that Ratatouille is tons of fun in the classroom.

  6. Malou

    Wow! I just so love your visual presentation of this dish. My husband and I love this dish where I would normally just chopped all the vegetables and chicken, add some herbs and drizzle with olive oil and let it stew in the oven. 😉

  7. Edna

    I had no idea about any of this! I’m going to have to rewatch Ratatouille now that I actually live in Paris and know a little something about cooking!

    • baconbiscuit212

      Thank you, Karen! Yes, very translucent 🙂 Maybe a little over so? I used a mandoline first and then switched to a sharp knife. Maybe I will just use a knife next time . . .

  8. Kafkaesque

    Stunning! Absolutely STUNNING!!!!! Wow… Bravo! I don’t even know what to say. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go stare at the photos a little more and just drool! *standing ovation*

Leave a Reply to baconbiscuit212 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s