Pet peeve #3572. Repetition.
The word covers a lot of territory, and so does my peeve. The most tolerable example is my daughter, she of the mouth that never stops. From the moment she wakes up to the time we turn out her light at night, she’s talking.
Because Dudette doesn’t bother to listen to what she’s saying when she speaks, over the course of a ‘quick’ description of Benjamin, the new boy who sits next to her in school, I get to hear at least a dozen times that he’s moved to the area from Virginia. Then she acts surprised when she asks if I know where he’s from and I tell her.
Repetition holds the biggest responsibility for my walking away from watching sports on television. Enter the halftime show. After spending an hour and a half watching a football game and listening to the commentators give me their opinions, the last thing I want is to hear it all over again. I didn’t need most of the inane blather the first time around.
What? Instant replay? Ah, now that one’s necessary. Watching an incredible toes-barely-inbound-catch-before-he’s-tackled-into-the-next-county in slow motion? Absolutely phenomenal.
That being said, welcome to a repeat performance. What makes this a repeat isn’t the method used, but the the response to the dish from the family. It’s exactly the same. I knew it would be, but I went ahead and made it anyway.
“The secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself.”
— Joël Robuchon, The Complete Robuchon
This recipe does not use Chef Robuchon’s method.
Instead, the squashes are added raw, while the rest of the ingredients are given a quick sauté before being thrown in the slow cooker to stew for 4-5 hours.
Before serving, the cheese and basil are added and given a careful stir to combine.
We don’t like polenta so I didn’t make the second part. Instead, I served it over rice, the same way we had it when I was growing up.
Second verse, same as the first. You can check the verdict on the first round of ratatouille if you’d like because this round had the same results.
The flavors are all ratatouille, which makes sense since that’s what this is, but the consistency is much more slimy than the Cook’s Illustrated version I made a couple of years ago. Personally, I’m not much fond of slimy. Even though I’ve grown to love the taste of eggplant, once it and bell peppers get to the point of mushiness that these were, they lose a lot of their appeal.
I also thought there was too much basil taste. A cup is an awful lot of a very strong herb to be adding fresh. Additionally, I couldn’t taste the Parmigiano-Reggiano at all once it was added. There were too many other strong flavors vying for attention.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Even though this doesn’t taste bad, I wouldn’t bother to make it again. Some things just aren’t supposed to be made in the slow cooker. I think this is one of those things.
- Cooking spray
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 10½ cups)
- 3 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 6½ cups)
- 3 tablespoons coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 small to medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3½ cups)
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 10 grinds black pepper
- ½ cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about ¼ pound)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
- 1½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 1½ cups polenta or coarse-ground cornmeal (not instant)
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese (about ½ cup)
- 10 grinds black pepper
- Grease the slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with 3 tablespoons of the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the greased slow cooker.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. As soon as it melts, add the flour and tomato paste, and cook until the mixture is thickened and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and pepper. Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes.Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, 4-5 hours. Uncover and remove from the heat; immediately stir in the cheese and basil.
- While the ratatouille is cooking, add the stock and salt to a medium, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring every 3 minutes, until creamy and thickened, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, cheese and pepper.
- To serve, ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top and serve immediately.