Confit Byaldi - Ratatouille's Ratatouille

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Remy's ratatouille or Ratatouille's ratatouille. However you may know it, you have probably seen this dish which was made popular by the Pixar movie, Ratatouille, a few years ago. 

It is in fact a version of the French classic tian Provençal, a summer dish from Provence, and includes the traditional harvest vegetables in the area: tomatoes, eggplants, and squash, although cooked in a 'tian' (earthenware pot) and presented in a stylized manner, known as Confit Byaldi

The name confit byaldi comes from a Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi, which is a dish where an eggplant half is stuffed with vegetables. Interestingly, Imam Bayildi literally translates to 'the imam (cleric) fainted' LOL! Hopefully, only because the dish was so good!

The first appearance of confit byaldi came from the kitchen of the French chef, Michel Guérard, to whom we can attribute the delicate slicing and the baking of this dish, instead of the traditional cubing and frying of the vegetables in a classic ratatouille. He took a cuisine classique and created a lighter nouvelle cuisine version.

Confit Byaldi was recently popularized by the Pixar movie, Ratatouille, whose producer interned for a few days in the kitchen of notable American chef, Thomas Keller's 'The French Laundry' in the Napa Valley. When asked what iconic French dish Keller were to serve an acclaimed food critic, the chef decided he would make ratatouille, but in the confit byaldi style.

Keller added to Guérard's style with the use of a pipérade, a tomato and bell pepper sauce (as shown on the top photo) under the vegetable slices, and a vinaigrette (bottom photo) on top of the vegetables.

The confit would then be baked in the oven with first, a parchment on top to steam the vegetables, then without the parchment, to delicately roast and caramelize the vegetables in the final stages of cooking.

The resulting baked dish is then served on individual plates with a dollop of pipérade in the centre, on top of which the vegetable slices are fanned, then finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.

Confit Byaldi been on my bucket list for a while now and voilà, it is now on my plate. And the blog. Whew! Not only is it a feast for the eyes, it is très délicieux as well.

This recipe is baked in a 33x23cm (9x13inch) baking pan, and serves 6 as an appetizer.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers (red, yellow & orange), chopped, without ribs and seeds
680 g (1-1/2 lb) about 6-8 tomatoes, diced, with juices
3 bay leaves
3 stems of parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
Salt, to taste

4 Roma (firm fleshed) tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 purple (Chinese) eggplant, thinly sliced
1 green zucchini, thinly sliced
1 yellow squash (I couldn't find it so used another kind of green squash), thinly sliced

4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Vinaigrette to serve:
2 tbsp reserved pipérade
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 sprig fresh thyme, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a sauté pan, heat the oil, then sweat the onions, garlic, and chopped peppers until softened.
2. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and the herbs, simmering on a low heat until slightly thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Taste, season with salt, and remove the leaves and herbs.
4. Transfer to a bowl, then set aside to cool.
5. Reserve 2 tbsp of the pipérade for serving.
Note: Keller's recipe has the bell peppers roasting in the oven before adding them to the onion, garlic, and tomato mixture. Here, I just cooked it, with the skins, with everything else.

1. Lightly butter a casserole dish with olive oil, spread the pipérade on the bottom of the dish.
2. Working from the sides, arrange the vegetable slices in a slightly overlapping manner towards the centre of the dish.
Tip: I found it faster to lay the different vegetables four at a time on my palm and then transfer them to the baking dish, instead of picking and transferring them one at a time. You may not use all the vegetables you painstakingly prepared. Don't fret.

3. Preheat the oven to 135C or 275F.
4. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, and thyme.
5. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust if needed.
6. Drizzle this mixture over the vegetable slices.
7. Cover the casserole dish with parchment paper, then with foil, sealing the edges.
Tip: Don't forego the parchment as the vegetables may get stuck to the foil, but not the parchment. Then why the foil? Because the parchment doesn't grip the sides of the pan and doesn't seal the steam in. Aha!

8. Bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours until vegetables are tender. Gently poke a skewer or a paring knife into a vegetable slice to test.
9. Uncover both foil and parchment, and bake a further 30 minutes, taking care that is isn't browning. Cover again if it does.

Now this dish actually improves with age, and is best the day after. After it is cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two days. It gives the pipérade time to intensify and the vegetables to soak up all the surrounding flavours. To reheat, bring the casserole dish to room temperature, and place in a 175C or 350F preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

To serve:
1. Make the vinaigrette by whisking reserved pipérade, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
2. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Set this aside.

3. With a spatula, lift about 4 inches worth of the hot/warm overlapping vegetables.
4. Hang on to this while you get a dollop of pipérade from underneath.
5. Place the pipérade in the centre of the plate.
You didn't drop those veggies, did you?
6. Whew! Now fan them on top of the mound of sauce, using your fingers to guide them.
Surely you didn't think they were going to fall into place on their own.
7. Top with a spoonful of vinaigrette on top.

Now stand back, revel in your culinary masterpiece, take plenty of pictures, sit back and dig in!

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  1. This dish, I mean, the movie's dish by Keller and the confit Bayildi by Michel Guérard are not insprired by or a revisited of ratatouille (a stew of vegetables, including bell pepper), but from another traditional dish from the South of France, the tian Provençal, a roast of vegetables without bell pepper, although, as usual, the Nice region claims for the fatherhood of this dish. Ftr, tian designs also the cooking dish, like tajine/tagine, tian and tajine having the same etymological origine.

    1. Thank you for that information. Much appreciate the input. I have edited my post accordingly :)