A ratatouille is a ratatouille is a ratatouille.

© Jessie Kanelos

It all began with a Sunday roast, rather a rosbif (translation: ‘French’ for roast beef).  Like always, mon mari was in charge of the roast and I was in charge of the accompaniment.  Digging through the fridge, I exclaimed, “Hey!  I’ve got all the makings of a ratatouille!”  I’ve always thought that any combination of zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic would instantly qualify as a ratatouille, even disguised as a the quick saute.  But mon mari is always discouraging me from making it.   As Mr. Meat & Potatoes himself, I just shrugged it off as an unsuccessful attempt at force-feeding him something green.  But finally, it came out, “c‘est pas terrible!  A real ratatouille needs to be cooked for at least a day or two.  It should be like jam when it is done”, he insisted.  Was this just another cross-cultural, marital culinary scuff?

Sure enough, in a country divided by 200-something kinds of cheese, the preparation of ratatouille has inspired a national debate, too.  The ingredients can simply be sautéed.  Or they can be layered and baked in the oven.   Or simmered away for hours à la Joël Robuchon.  I sucked up my pride and rescheduled the ratatouille, leaving it to stew away into the evening hours.  Alas, Robuchon, I mean, my husband, was right.  Although all the vibrant colors of the vegetables were lost in the stewing, what was left was a rich, meaty concentration of vegetables, leaving it with an intensely savory sauce evoking a boeuf bourguignon.  I poached some eggs in the ratatouille and dinner was served.

Although I will still use all three methods, all of them should be explored to come to a personal conclusion.  But the simmering method upgrades ratatouille from an unconscious side dish to a sophisticated main course.

Frenchie knows best.

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