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.