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.

Corn Bread and Ratatouille


It’s not easy being an ultra-cheap cook. Your ingredient options are limited, and you must always keep your eyes peeled for things that can be nabbed while on sale. But the cool thing is that every once in a while all the stars will align, and you just happen to have all the ingredients for some particular dish.

As a general rule, I almost never buy vegetables that cost over $1.00 per pound, and I never buy meat that costs over $2.00 per pound (not that I buy much meat anyways). But in the past week… asparagus for $0.99 per pound? Fuck yes please. And tomatoes were on sale too. And eggplant. And green peppers. Ratatouille instantly came to mind. Yellow squash and zuchini not on sale? Fuck them then, I like asparagus better anyways. It’s time to make some real food.

NOTE: If you are planning to make both items concurrently I recommend making the ratatouille first and corn bread second. Ratatouille is good at all temperatures (and increases in flavor as time progresses) but corn bread is at its peak hot from the oven.

Operation 1: Corn Bread

Deliciousness is just around the corn-er. The corn-iness is just beginning.

For the uninitiated (by which I mean the international readers), corn bread is a quick-bread made using a mixture of regular flour and cornmeal. The cornmeal adds a yellow hue to the resulting bread and creates an intriguing and wonderful gritty texture that must be experienced to be understood.

Total Time: 30-45 min

Ingredients

This is for six muffins. Double for an 8-inch pan.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted*
1/2 cup cornmeal*
5/8 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp white granulated sugar**
2 tbsp butter/margarine, melted

*This is very important! I know for most other batters there are ways to make a lumpless batter without sifting, but for corn bread sifting is essential. More on this later.
**The cornmeal-to-flour ratio can be adjusted to taste as long as the total sum of dried ingredients comes out to one cup. More cornmeal produces a more pronounced corn texture. Since cornmeal is more expensive that normal flour, this is a good balance between texture and cost.
***Honey is also wonderful here. Sugar quantity can be adjusted to taste; add one more tablespoon if you are making sweet cornbread or muffins.

Cooking

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Meanwhile, mix together all the dry ingredients (sifted flour, corn meal, salt, sugar, baking powder) in one container. Beat egg and milk together in another container. Melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside.

I don't actually own a sieve (yet) so I sifted the flour with a fork. No tool, no problem.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. The key to good cornbread is to stir the batter as little as possible, hence sifting the flour beforehand to reduce lumpage.

Once the oven has reached temperature. Stick your empty muffin tin into the hot oven for about 30 seconds. Remove from the oven, then add enough melted butter to cover the bottom of each muffin mold. Return the mold into the oven for about fifteen seconds to heat the butter.

Take the mold out of the oven yet again, and fill each mold up about 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Do not worry about the edges browning. Cornmeal browns faster than regular flour and creates a fantastic crispy crust. If you are using an 8-inch pan with twice the ingredients, bake for about 25 minutes, but start checking a bit earlier.

Would you call this... food cornography? Except for that muffin tumor growing over there...

Cool muffins for at least two minutes before removing from mold. Serve immediately if possible.

Operation 2: Ratatouille

Ingredients as far as the eyes can see. Up to the wall. The wall is not a part of this dish.

Total Time: 45 min – 1 hour

Ingredients (for 2-3 servings)

1 green pepper
1 medium onion
8-9 asparagus spears*
4 roma tomatoes or 2 regular tomatoes
1/2 eggplant
2 tbsp vegetable oil
parsley
basil
thyme
garlic (or garlic powder)**
salt
black pepper

*Traditional ratatouille calls for yellow squash and zuchini. For this specific ratatouille recipe the cook times for yellow squash/zuchini and asparagus are about the same. This is a faster version of “real” ratatouille, which takes a few hours to make. One day I definitely will make (and blog) the traditional French recipe.
**All herbs can be fresh or dried. Dried is obviously cheaper.

Cooking

Slice your medium onion into strips. Chop asparagus into roughly 3/4 inch pieces. Cut tomatoes, green peppers, and eggplant into 3/4 inch pieces as well.

Over medium heat, saute onions in oil until they are soft and slightly browned on the edges.

Megan Fox making out with Scarlett Johansen

Onions making you cry? Just rip out your tear glands. Problem solved.

Add eggplant, salt and black pepper, garlic powder, and thyme. As you may have noticed by now, we are going to add the vegetables individually with respect to their cook times. I personally find it easier to also add salt in increments to taste with each new addition of vegetables.

Cook the eggplant with onions for 7-8 minutes, or until the eggplant is starting to be softened on the outside. Add the asparagus, green peppers, and basil. Fold everything together and cook for another 7-8 minutes. Asparagus and green peppers generally cook fast in dishes such as stir fries. However, ratatouille calls for a softer consistency. Undercooking the green peppers will result in a bitter taste which you do not want.

Look at this healthy shit. A bowl of this is the real-life equivalent of a Mega-health in Quake.

Once the green peppers and asparagus are nice and tender, add the tomatoes and basil. Cook until the tomatoes are at your desired softness. For me, it’s about another 7-8 minutes.

Ratatouille can be served at all temperatures. Tastes even better the next day.

The Result

By our powers combined... CAPTAIN PLA- err I mean, corn bread and ratatouille!

4.7 / 5 Tasty and healthy? Well, at least the ratatouille part is healthy. It still bothers me a bit now that I’ve stumbled upon the proper way to make ratatouille that this isn’t it, but getting to it is only a matter of time.

Conclusion

Corn bread is an invention of the South, more properly the south-east region of the United States. It is usually consumed with a thick hearty chili, but unfortunately my beans are still dry (that sounds completely wrong in hindsight) and I forgot to soak them. Ratatouille is a rustic French dish. The two items pair together rather well, although not as well as chili and corn bread. Technically, I have written a blog entry on chili, although it could use some updating. Digressions aside, both of these items are fucking good and if you have some spare time, you should give them a shot.