March 2021

Baked Ratatouille in Bourbon Mirepoix Sauce

Cooking time: Approximately 60 min.

Ratatouille -- a very old French recipe of coarse vegetable stew dating back late 16th century, popularized in the modern day by Pixar Animation Studio's 2007 animated comedy film of the same title which won Academy Awards.

The etymology of the word Ratatouille is from the Occitan (southern French language) "Ratatolha" meaning "to stir up." A peasant dish, the origin of Ratatouille has vague roots. Historians believe it may have been invented before the 16th century, from the Catalonia & Basque regions, then eventually found its way to the whole Mediterranean culinary tradition. That said, the popular Ratatouille recipe of today (consisting of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash) is not how it was originally prepared then. For one thing, eggplant only appeared in Europe in the 16th century from India when it was then considered an ornamental, inedible plant. The earliest recipe probably consisted of all together different vegetables which were local to our forbearers.

This is my whiskey spiked recipe; the divergent addition of bourbon intensifies the sweet flavors of the caramelized onions and red bell peppers in the mirepoix. Baking provides the contrast of textures with the crisp vegetables and soft, rich mirepoix underneath. 

Ingredients

Mirepoix

6 Cloves Garlic 

1 (Large) Yellow Onion

2 (Large) Tomatos (Roasted)

1 (Large) Red Bell Peppers (Roasted)

1/2 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika

1 Tsp. Fresh Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, As Needed

Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste

1 Shot Bourbon (I used OGD 114)

Ingredients

Vegetable Topping

1 Large Eggplant (Thinly Sliced Crosswise)

2 Zucchini (Thinly Sliced Crosswise)

2 Yellow Squash (Thinly Sliced Crosswise)

2 Large Roman Tomatoes (Thinly Sliced Crosswise)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, As Needed

Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste

Topping: Pecorino Romano

Garnish: Herb of Choice (Basil)

Instructions 

  1. In a tray, arrange the vegetable toppings according to kind and generously drizzle with EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), set aside.

  2. To make the mirepoix, sauté the garlic in EVOO until golden brown. 

  3. In the same pan, drop in the onions and cook until it caramelizes, then add the bourbon. Allow time for the alcohol to cook off and add the roasted tomato and red bell peppers.

  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  5. Cool down the sauce and process to a mirepoix with an immersion blender.

  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer on low for another 5 minutes.

  7. Transfer the mirepoix to an earthen ware, cast iron, or baking dish.

  8. Sprinkle and stir in your herb of choice (mine was basil, oregano is a popular choice).

  9. Arrange the vegetables carefully in a spiral layout (outward to inward), alternating the colors in the same order as you go.

  10. Bake uncovered at 380F for 25 to 30 min, or until the vegetables begin to crisp.

  11. Rest and sprinkle with Pecorino Romano, salt & pepper to taste, garnish, and serve hot.

 

Aperitif:

Tomatin 12 Year

43 ABV 

Though most find this single malt boring, I find it as the ideal refresher in between bites. It is its light fruitiness that makes a surprisingly perfect complement that doesn't overwhelm the dish, but rather provides a welcome sweet contrast from the natural acidity of the Ratatouille's sauce.

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