Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Julia Child's Ratatouille Recipe



Next month will be the celebration of Julia Child's 100th birthday. Her publisher is marking the occasion with Julia Child Restaurant Week, weekly recipe reprints and a charming new book called Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child

It's sometimes hard to imagine that Julia Child has been gone for almost eight years. Her statuesque frame, her distinctive high pitched voice and sense of humor are impossible to forget.

Keeping the memory alive and introducing Julia Child to a whole new audience is Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child. It's one of those illustrated children's books that adults will adore. It's filled with joyful images, funny anecdotes and a range of recipes from easy and accessible like Mayonnaise to more advanced like a Gallantine and Bouillabaisse. The colorful images and cheery text manage to entertain and educate in equal measure. I've just seen some sample pages, but I was thoroughly charmed. If you have a budding chef in your family this is a great book to share with them. But any fan of Julia Child will want this too. It's worth it for the tales of Julia Child's childhood pranks and illustrated recipes alone. 

I don't know all the details of the Julia Child Restaurant Week August 7-15, but I can point you to the listing of restaurants. Find one in your area, then stay tuned! 

As a participant in JC100, I'm very happy to share with you Julia Child's recipe for Ratatouille. I have made this recipe the wrong way for ages. The secret is in cooking each ingredient separately so they retain their own flavor and texture. This recipe came back in fashion thanks to the adorable Pixar film, Ratatouille and Thomas Keller's elegantly revamped recipe (also known as confit byaldi) which featured overlapping layers of vegetables. 
Julia Child's Ratatouille

For 6-8 people

1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 sliced green peppers (about 1 cup) 
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced (about 1 1/2 cups pulp)
3 Tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8" think, about 3" long and 1" wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut into slices about the same size as the eggplant. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and dry each slice in a towel.

One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in 4 Tbsp. hot olive oil in a 10-12" skillet for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers (add an additional 2 Tbsp. of olive oil if needed) for about 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Slice tomato pulp into 3/8" strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt & pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, taste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes until juice has almost entirely evaporated.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart casserole (about 2 1/2" deep). Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. fresh, minced parsley over tomatoes. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip the casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole. Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold. 

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.