Confit Byaldi


Have you ever looked on Google images for pictures of confit byaldi? They all look somewhat sloppy and lopsided… except for Thomas Keller’s. His is beautiful, neat, and clean, like he chiseled it out of a fucking rainbow. When I started making this dish, I aimed to create something that is also beautiful, neat, and clean. But it turned out sloppy and lopsided like everyone else’s were. I simply wasn’t able to find vegetables of the same width to make the slices layer identically.

The lesson here is that as insane as I might be to try this shit and do it all by hand, master chefs are just slightly more insane in their drive for perfection, and their ability to be damned near perfect.

Confit Byaldi is the version of ratatouille that Thomas Keller invented for the movie “Ratatouille”. It is aesthetically the best looking ratatouille I’ve ever seen, and after having tasted it, it is also the best tasting version too.

Ingredients

Cheap immigrant labor? I’m an immigrant and I did it all for free.

Prep Time: ~4.5 hours

Serves 3-4

Piperade:

1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 orange pepper
~3 medium sized tomatoes (12 oz, or 325g worth)
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig parsley
1/2 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Vegetables:

1 medium zuchini
1 medium yellow squash*
1 thin Japanese eggplant**
4-5 roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

*I’ve seen fuckers try to sound bourgeois and call them “courgettes”. Don’t be a wanker. Until you’re a chef standing in the kitchen of own restaurant they’re yellow squash.
**You want the long, thin Japanese eggplant, which may be difficult to find depending on where you live. Try to find an eggplant that is as similar in diameter to the squash and zuchini as you can.

Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon of piperade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

You will also need: A good knife or a mandolin. Mandolin is highly recommended for those who aren’t insane.

Assembly

Preparation starts with the piperade. Cut your peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and ribs from one half of each pepper. Lay them skins side up onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 450F (232C) for fifteen minutes.

Making this dish was like running my own sweat shop, except I’m the only worker.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Make small x-shaped incisions on the bottom of your tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for 15 seconds. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes. Now remove the tomatoes from the water and peel them. Cut the tomatoes in half width-wise. Use a spoon, remove the seeds from each tomato over a plastic container. You want to keep the seeds, pulp, and juice that drips out. Finely chop your peeled and deseeded tomatoes.

Show those vegetables no mercy.

Peel your clove of garlic and mince that. Cut your onion in half and finely chop that also. Group the onions and garlic together and keep your tomatoes separate. At this point, your peppers may be done. Take them out of the oven and let them cool.

On the stove, pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook for about 8 minutes. Let the onions and garlic soften but do not brown them (this means stirring the vegetables every 30 seconds or so). After 8 minutes, dump in your tomatoes and herbs. Pour in the juice from de-seeding the tomatoes but do not let any seeds get into the piperade. Keep the herbs in sprig form. You will be removing them later.

Ratatouille is French, but confit byaldi was invented by an American. USA! USA! USA!

Cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes to soften, but do not brown. At this point in time the peppers should be cool enough to touch. Peel the peppers and finely dice them as well. Dump the peppers into the piperade after 10 minutes is up. Simmer for about another 5-10 minutes, until there is no excess moisture. Remove the herbs and add salt to taste.

Hundreds of years in a French kitchen one cook said to the other “What the fuck is this mush?” Then the other cook said “Mush? No. We will give it a fancy name… say “piperade” or something, and everyone will love it.”

Now you can start on the vegetables! You want to slice all the vegetables into 1/16th inch (or 1.5 millimeter) slices. You will need approximately 2/3 of a zuchini, eggplant, and yellow squash, and 4-5 tomatoes. Do try to slice them as thinly as possible, it gives a nice texture and appearance. Place your eggplant slices in a small container with lightly salted water to prevent them from browning.

Recipe invented by white people, vegetables picked by brown people, dish processed by yellow people. It’s an international collaboration.

Now, spread your piperade (reserve a few tablespoons for the vinaigrette) all over the bottom of a baking dish. Down the center, lay down 8 alternating slices of vegetables, approximately 1/4 inch apart.

The beginning of tedium. An activity so dull even my camera couldn’t maintain focus.

Continue laying down rounds of vegetables until your entire pan is covered in vegetables. Pre-heat your oven to 275F (135C). In a separate container, whisk together a clove of minced garlic, two tablespoons of olive oil, the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each for me). Spread this mixture over the vegetables.

You could try first placing the vegetables vertically, then pushing over the last slice so they fall like dominoes. I’ve never tried it.

Cover the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 2 hours, or until the vegetables are tender (poke them with a knife. If the knife runs through easily, the vegetables are tender). At the end of 2 hours, uncover the pan and bake for half an hour more. Remove from oven.

But in the movie it took them only 3 seconds to make! Pixar you bastard!

As the dish cools, whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Equal portions of olive oil to piperade, and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for every tablespoon of oil. You want about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette per portion of ratatouille. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

The Result

The vegetarian version of escargot.

Why would you ever spend so much time making this? I dunno. It is pretty good though. The vegetables are very soft, in a melt-in-your-mouth kind of way. There is a ton of compressed flavor within the thin slices of vegetables. I would even venture to say that this is probably as good as it will ever get for vegetarians. But for the rest of us, there is MEAT. Yes, I could go for a nice steak right about now.

Conclusion

The making of this dish was inspired by immaculate beauty. The result was… not quite the same? In the similar way in which God made man and man tried to make man but ended up with Frankenstein. How many Frankensteins will I have to make until I can make man? I don’t know, but keep your eyes peeled for a flood of monsters, each slightly better looking than the last.

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Fun with Eggs


…Specifically, eggs of the chicken. Most people will agree that chicken periods are considerably more palatable than human periods. Furthermore, they are cheaper. Requests for human egg donors in the classified section of newspapers often offer thousands of dollars for a single egg.

This blog entry isn’t as much about egg dishes as it is about what you can do with eggs. The first dish is a broccoli and tomato salad with home made mayonnaise. The second dish is a cherry clafoutis. Both dishes use eggs in a supporting role, but the eggs are critical enough that the dishes will not work without them.

If you hate eggs, this is not the blog for you. And shame on you for hating on eggs.

Module 1: Tomato and Broccoli Salad

Hullaballoo

What came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken, of course. Eggs can’t come.

Prep Time: ~30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb broccoli
1 lb tomatoes
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp salt

Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2/3 cup oil*
1/2 tbsp salt**
1/4 tbsp pepper (white pepper if you want consistent coloring)
1 1/2 tbsp wine vinegar or lemon juice

*Typically you will want to use a neutral tasting oil. I used half olive oil and half vegetable (sunflower) oil. Pure olive oil will have too strong a flavor for making mayonnaise.

**I tend to under-salt my dressings and my food in general. You may wish to up this to a full tablespoon for the final salad.

Cooking

Bring about two quarts (2 liters) of water to a boil in a pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Meanwhile, cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

I bet you can’t spot the egg in this picture.

Blanch the broccoli (which means to cook something briefly in boiling water) for about a minute, keeping the heat on high. When you first put the broccoli into the water, it may cause the water to stop boiling. The water should come back to a rolling boil before the minute is up. This will quickly cook the broccoli until it is slightly tender, but the broccoli should still retain some of its crispiness.

Just kidding, there weren’t any eggs in the previous picture.

Lift your broccoli out of the water and let it cool in a colander. Do not dump the hot water yet. As the broccoli cool, you can start on your mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is quite easy to make, but also easy to screw up if you do not pay attention. Crack open an egg and separate the yolk and the white. Discard the white. Deposit the egg yolk in a medium sized bowl. Add the mustard. Mustard is a good emulsifier, which means it will help bind the oil to the egg yolk.

Salmonella? Never heard of her. Is she hot?

Whisk the mustard and the egg yolk together while holding the bowl over the hot water. You will want to bring the two to room temperature without overcooking the eggs, so check the bottom of your bowl every now and then to make sure that it is not too hot. Oftentimes mayonnaise recipes will tell you to use “room temperature eggs”, and this is the best and safest way to bring eggs to room temperature. Simply leaving egg outside for a few hours will “age” the egg significantly and it will be considerably less fresh than if you used the method described here.

Once the yolk and mustard mixture is well whisked and at room temperature, you are ready to make mayonnaise. Have your oil ready at hand and add ONLY a few drops to the yolk. The key to mayonnaise is to start adding oil very slowly. If you add oil too quickly, the mayonnaise will never form and you will have to restart.

The mayonnaise starts out yellow and becomes paler over time. As a Chinese living in the United States, that’s the story of my life right there.

Whisk the few drops of oil into the yolk until it is smooth and uniform. Add a bit more oil this time, and whisk the oil in. Continue to add oil, increasing the increments each time, and whisk the oil completely into the mayonnaise before continuing on.

Whisk until all the oil has been incorporated. Now you can season the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper, and vinegar or lemon juice for acidity.

The primordial ooze of French cuisine

The time for salad assembly is now. Cut your tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Throw in parmesan and toss your vegetables together with the mayonnaise (add as much as you need). Serve right away, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Vegetables just aren’t the same without a ton of fat drenched all over it.

Module 2: Cherry Clafoutis

A custard had sex with a flan once upon a time. The flan got pregnant and gave birth to the clafoutis.

Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe
Prep time: ~1 hour
Serves 3-4
Makes 1 8-inch cast-iron pan

2 cups ripe cherries*
5/6 cup milk (or part milk, part cream)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla eggstract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
butter, for buttering pan
1 tbsp powdered sugar

You will also need: a vessel which is both stove-top and oven-safe, such as a cast iron pan.

*The traditional dessert can be made with either apricots or cherries (pitted or not). I used unpitted bing cherries, which allegedly gives a more intense flavor. You can either pit the cherries, or use pitted canned cherries. Drain the canned cherries of syrup before use.

Cooking

A clafoutis is like a mix between a flan and a custard. It can be eaten either as a dessert or for breakfast. It is fast and easy to make. First, pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C) sift your flour into a bowl. Add eggs to the flour and mix together into a thick, yellowy batter.

Chopsticks, so named because they are excellent tools for chopping objects. If you disagree, it means your kungfu is weak.

Add sugar, mix thoroughly again, then add the milk slowly while mixing to avoid lumps. Add salt and finally vanilla extract. You should end up with a very thin batter.

If you stir 13 times counter-clockwise using your feet while doing a handstand underneath a ladder with a black cat as witness, a unicorn will appear and grant you one wish.

Prepare your cherries however you want them to end up in the clafoutis. Butter your pan. Turn the heat to medium on the stove top and place your pan on the stove. Pour a thin layer of batter into the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Heat the bottom just enough for the layer to thicken slightly, then pull the pan from the heat. Place all of your cherries into the pan in a single layer and pour the rest of the batter into the pan.

This clafoutis just got clafruity.

Stick the clafoutis into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check in at about 40 minutes. Once the edges are puffed and brown, and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature.

Don’t forget to warn people about the cherry pits when you serve this to them, unless you secretly hate them.

Conclusion

Aren’t eggs useful? And not even in the impregnation/reproduction way either. Even when they are not the centerpiece, they serve as critical instruments that bind many dishes and sauces together. I like eggs, and so should you. Eggs are there to serve. They exist for your nourishment. Instead of beating your children or your wife, consider beating your eggs instead. You will discover that the results are much more desirable.