Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Ratatouille, the essence of Provencal cuisine and Ratatouille’s Ancestor, the Bohémienne de Légumes.
The history and recipe of the most famous of all Provencal
Behind the French Menu
Ratatouille or Ratatouille Nicoise isa traditional recipe from Nice
in Provence, France. For at least 100 years before the movie, ratatouille
the dish, was a favorite on Provencal menus. Since the movie, the
original ratatouille, or more often an adaptation of the original Ratatouille, is now on menus
Remy the rat, the chef, from the movie Ratatouille
gazing over Paris.
Photograph courtesy Fernando Galeano
Ratatouille the classicrecipe.
Ratatouille was originally
called Ratatouille Nicoise and the
classic recipe from NIce, was eggplants, aubergines
in the UK, zucchinis, courgettes in the
UK, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, herbs and olive oil. To those
ingredients chefs may add, mushrooms, lardons which are fried or smoked bacon
bits, and occasionally eggs. Some of the
vegetables will vary with the seasons, and quite a number of chefs present
their ratatouille with gruyère cheese browned on top or grated and placed
on the side for the diner to add to his or her taste.
Photograph courtesy of studio-d.
Order ratatouille in restaurants that make it fresh everyday.
The reason is the olive oil.
tasty ratatouille may only come from the freshest vegetables, and the finishing
touch is a that drizzle of fine virgin olive oil added cold at the last moment. That final touch is a must if the
restaurant expects customers who know the difference between a freshly made ratatouille
and a warmed up ratatouille, to come back. The best virgin oils, all of them, lose their unique flavor when cooked or heated in any way. Use a good olive oil for cooking but keep that expensive virgin olive oil for use old.
For more about choosing and using the best olive oils see
many ratatouille offerings are baked, and the dish does not suffer from
that change. From my experience, the
tastes may be similar but the more you pay determines if the ratatouille is served layered; only the texture may be different. You pay for presentation.
Photograph courtesy of drcohn
Ratatouille hot or cold? You choose.
be served hot or cold, and that was always part of the dish’s history. Ratatouille began as a main dish and only later gained popularity
as a side dish. Now in a return to its origins ratatouille is again offered as a main dish accompanied by rice or pasta. Despite the occasional
disputes ratatouille did originate in the area of Nice and is just one the many famous and popular dishes Nice
has given to the rest of Provence and France.
so now so popular with visitors to Provence that they will also be offered fast-food ratatouille
versions where it will be served in toasted baguettes, ratatouille pizza or in a
Niçoise Fougasse or Fougassette.
For most the popular French breads including
the Fougasse or Fougassette see the post:
Bohémienne de légumesthe
dish that preceded ratatouille
Bohémienne de Légumes – Ratatouille's
ancestor; and still on some Provencal menus is the classic Bohémienne de Legumes. Bohémienne de Legumes is a vegetable stew that only includes eggplant, aubergines in the UK, and tomatoes. As with its descendant ratatouille,
a bohémienne de légumes will be fried in olive oil with
garlic and herbs. Modern versions may include onions, but that is about it, as
adding anything else will turn a bohémienne de légumes into its
grandchild, a ratatouille!
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013.
For more about Nice, the city,and its unique dishes and history see the post: