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Cast Iron Ratatouille


YouTube: Ratatouille in Cast Iron

I never had a problem eating my veggies as I grew up; but I'd never heard of ratatouille until I saw the Pixar movie. Like many others, I was inspired to try making the final dish of "ratatouille" myself…even though technically, that's not a ratatouille! Ratatouille is only a simple dish of baked vegetable stew, and the colorful rainbow of arranged vegetable slices laid out by Remy in the Pixar film Ratatouille is actually a confit byaldi [1]. Of course, the popularity of the movie has redefined ratatouille for millions of people worldwide, and so an artistically laid dish of sliced vegetables is now seen by many as ratatouille. Regardless of the name, this doesn't change the fact that this is a wonderful dish, any way you look at it: it looks beautiful, it is delicious, it is healthy, and it is incredibly easy to make! The only drawback, of course, is that it requires a lot of slicing to produce all of those vegetable slices. But the work is worth it, because the end result is a dish that will impress your family, friends, and dinner guests.

This dish is based upon the Smitten Kitchen blog's recipe for ratatouille. I've modified it slightly, especially so that it will work with a cast iron pan or baking dish.

Pans needed: 10-inch cast iron skillet, or larger.

For a ratatouille in a 10-inch diameter, cast iron skillet, use: one eggplant, two tomatoes, one summer squash, one zucchini, one turnip, and one additional vegetable of your choice.

(For the extra-large ratatouille dish pictured above, double the amount of ingredients; however, you still only need one each of the vegetables that make up the centerpiece of the dish. This recipe produces a lot of vegetable slices; and while you may run out of one or two vegetable entries, there will always be leftovers! )

Balsamic topping:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice vegetables into thin slices, roughly all the same size. Arrange in a separate bowl or dish for each vegetable, so that you can pick and choose each vegetable as you lay out the ratatouille. (Hint: After slicing the eggplant, mix in a teaspoon of salt. This will draw the liquid out of the eggplant and keep it firm when it cooks.)

Lay out the tortilla shell on the bottom of your cast iron pan.

Prepare the sauce by dicing up colored bell peppers and onion. Saute them in olive oil, until the onion is caramelized and translucent. Add crushed tomatoes to the pan. Add Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, and smoked paprika. Cook the sauce to reduce the liquid from the tomatoes, soften the vegetables, and thicken it.

Spread the sauce out over the bottom of the pan, on top of the tortilla bread.

On top of the the sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a fraction of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit; you can always cook these separately in another pan or dish. (You can just throw them all together in the other dish and cook them – this will be your own treat, and you don't have to present this to the guests. Technically, this vegetable mishmash is closer to actual ratatouille than your prepared dish! :) )

Drizzle olive oil over the top of your sliced vegetables; this will help to cook and soften them. Sprinkle smoked paprika over the vegetables, then add spices (parsley, thyme, rosemary) to the top of your dish.

Cover your pan with a lid. Place the pan in your oven, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes.

The dish can be served immediately after being removed from the oven – but it will be piping hot! You'll probably want to wait a few minutes for it to cool. Now is the time to prepare the balsamic topping: in a dish or gravy boat, mix together 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Lightly drizzle the balsamic topping onto the vegetables after they have been served onto the guest's plate.

Ratatouille Plated