It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you attempt to do a famous chef’s recipe. Doubly so, when you’ve never made anything like it. Ratatouille may be a simple provincial dish, but since it’s been made famous by the movie of same name (and that this was THE Thomas Keller’s recipe) it’s got a little more cache attached to it.
But my sister has a birthday this week and she wanted ratatouille. So I rolled up my sleeves and did some research and found the following. It was a lot of fun making this dish with her, but I have to say it was easily one of the most savory dishes I’ve ever made. And, not to toot my own horn, but pairing the ratatouille with a nice Cornish game hen and Merlot was a pretty damn good call. I hope you enjoy this meal.
Mediterranean Cornish Game Hen
Thomas Keller’s Ratatouille
Chateau St Michelle (Merlot)
Mediterranean Cornish Game Hen
4 Cornish game hens
3 cups cool water
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 medium orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground coriander (freshly ground coriander spice is best)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
In a medium mixing bowl combine water, orange juice, sugar, salt and spices. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Rinse hens and trim off any excess fat or skin (do not remove all of the skin, only extra hanging pieces). Place them in gallon sized resealable storage bags (2 to a bag) and divide the brine evenly between the two. The spices may settle in the liquid, so give it a swirl as you’re pouring it in.
When you are ready to cook the hens, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the hens in a roasting pan and reserve the marinade. Tuck an orange quarter inside of each hen, then truss with twine (simply wrap the drumstick ends together and secure with twine).
Season with salt and pepper. I use about 1/4 tsp of each per hen. Roast the hens for 90 minutes, turning the roasting pan halfway through cooking to ensure even heat distribution.
Meanwhile, strain the remaining marinade into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a a simmer and cook, letting the liquid slowly reduce until the the mixture is the consistency of a barbecue sauce
Once 90 minutes have passed, remove the hens from the oven and brush them with a generous amount of the sauce. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes, or until the hens reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. Serve hot.
Ratatouille’s RATATOUILLE (Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi)
2 Red Bellpepper (Capsicum) – seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced Garlic
½ cup finely diced Yellow Onion
340g (12 ounce) Tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig Fresh Thyme
1 sprig Flat-leaf Parsley
½ a Bay Leaf
Salt to taste
1 Green Zucchini (100g or 4ounces) – thinly sliced
1 Yellow Zucchini (100g or 4ounces) – thinly sliced
1 Japanese Eggplant (100g or 4ounces) – thinly sliced
4 Tomatoes – thinly sliced
½ teaspoon Minced Garlic
2 teaspoon Olive Oil
⅛ teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper.
For piperade, heat oven to 232C or 450F. Place pepper halves (cut side down) on a foil-lined tray. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.
Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, and discard herbs.
Heat oven to 275F. Spread piperade in bottom of an 20cm (8-inch) baking dish or casserole dish.
From the side of dish, arrange a strip of alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that ¼ inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until dish is filled; all vegetables may not be needed.
Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.) If there is excess liquid in pan, place over medium heat on stove until reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.)
For vinaigrette, take a tablespoon of piperade from the baking dish, combine with oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
To serve, heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly browned. Slice in quarters and very carefully lift onto plate with spatula (preferably an offset spatula). Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.