What is Ratatouille
Some people wonder if the dish actually originated in the Basque region of Spain, based off of the traditional ingredients and cooking method, but the full name of Ratatouille Niçoise indicates that the dish originated in Nice, France. Regardless of the inconclusiveness of food historians on the dish’s origination, everyone can agree that in all of its essential components, Ratatouille consists primarily of a summer symphony of vegetables and nightshades simmered or stewed together with a generous sprinkling of Herbs de Provence. In simpler terms, it is a bounty of seasonal vegetables and herbs slowly stewed together. I’ve never seen anything but the original with eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, etc. At best, I have seen the seasonings only slightly varied. It’s time we put a new, original take on it out into the world.
Winter (l’hiver if you desire to keep in the French theme of Ratatouille) has an additional song to sing in contrast to its savory Summertime counterpart. There is a tranquil repose to the quiescence of wintertime. So many plants and crops go dormant at the first signs of frost, and then it is time for the unsung heroes of the season to timidly tip-toe into the spotlight. These root vegetables and greens rarely receive the praise which they deserve, but in their humility they wouldn’t know how to accept the accolades if they wanted to. That, perhaps, is the reason this humble dish provides so much satisfaction for practically no work at all.
Golden beets, rutabagas, turnips, celeriac, and onions, slow cook on a bed of hearty winter kale, blanketed under garlic, herbs, and spices. I’ve included the skin on the vegetables after thoroughly scrubbing them, so that we could still receive as many nutrients as possible. They turn so soft that the skins are unnoticeable once the dish becomes cohesive. If you’d like, you can peel them and chop them in whatever style suits you. A splash of white grape juice (or white wine if you keep it on hand) adds the perfect balance of sweet richness to the broth. You’ll be delighted to serve this Winter Ratatouille with a side of garlic bread (we used brioche) and a light shaving of gruyere cheese for the garnish. Even my toddler ate this with gusto. This will be a tradition in our January menus from now on. May the magic of this winter ratatouille put warmth into your bellies and your hearts this season.
- cocotte, dutch oven, or braising pan with lid
- 4 T olive oil
- 4 rounded cups kale chopped
- 1 large turnip
- 1 large rutabaga
- 1 large celeriac
- 1 large yellow onion white or sweet onion would be equally good
- 1 large golden beet
- 1 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- 1 T turmeric
- 2 T herbs de provence
- 2 cloves garlic cloves finely minced or crushed
- 1 c white grape juice or white wine
- 4 c vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 c water
- 4 oz guyere shavings for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 250F
- Coat the bottom of your pan with olive oil
- Add chopped kale as base layer
- Chop onions and root vegetables into desired bite sized chunks, layer into pan
- Sprinkle seasonings and garlic
- Pour all liquid on top
- Cover pan and place in oven
- Stir vegetables every 2 hours as needed until they are fork tender.
- Can be served as a stew, with garlic bread or hearty sourdough, or even over rice.