A few weeks ago, I attempted to make one of the hardest dishes known to man. (Clearly it isn’t one of the hardest dishes known to woman, because I nailed it.) But, let’s back up a bit.
Every year, when the temperature drops and I don’t want an outrageously expensive heating bill, there are two things I usually do: layer sweaters, sweatpants, and any other thick clothing I can find; and, eat my bodyweight in soup.
But, this fall, I wanted to change it up. I wanted to make something warm, but not liquid; filling, but not as heavy as pasta; challenging, but not Gordon Ramsay-esque; fancy, but not expensive. So I landed on ratatouille.
If you’re an early 2000s baby like me, you’ll know where I’m going with this. I grew up with Disney’s 2007 film, Ratatouille, as one of my favourite movies to watch on a rainy day. I loved the animation, the music, the dialogue, and most of all, the way that they portrayed food as being more than just something to fill your stomach. But this film, alongside word-of-mouth, had convinced me ratatouille was, for some reason, the hardest dish to perfect.
When I decided to take on the task, I was anxious about everything I had heard: “You’ll spend a fortune on ingredients alone,” and “doesn’t that dish take, like, eight hours to make?” But, I was determined. I used a trusty online recipe, added in my own modifications, and was done with the dish in under two hours, including the cooking time.
The items weren’t really that expensive. I had a lot of the ingredients already on hand, from olive oil and garlic to onions and tomatoes. And since it’s a vegetarian dish, it’s mostly just made up of zucchini and other vegetables anyways, which are a whole lot cheaper than heading to the store for top-grade beef or fresh seafood.
A few large tomatoes (I used romas)
Grated parmesan, measured with your heart
2 garlic cloves
A few hefty tablespoons of olive oil
1 can of crushed tomatoes
A few pinches of dried oregano
A few pinches of dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
How I made it:
- Slice up one eggplant, a few large tomatoes, and one zucchini all into very thin rounds
- Dice up ½ an onion and 2 cloves of garlic into very small diced pieces
- Heat up a pan with olive oil and add in the onion and garlic
- Add a can of crushed tomatoes into the pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil
- Add in some oregano and basil
- Season with salt and pepper and mix together on medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble slightly
- Remove from heat and grab an oven safe pan, preferably round
- Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of the tomato sauce mixture and top with the eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini (you can layer these on top of each other in the circular pattern, or roll them up and stack them side by side until the pan is completely full, and the vegetales have covered the tomato sauce base)
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and have started to brown
- Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and a few cracks of sea salt, and serve warm on a plate
Once I was finished (and had taken about 500 pictures of my creation), I sat down to try it. I’m not just saying this because I made it… but it was so good. The clean-up was quick, the flavour was fresh, and I got a rush of pride in knowing that I was adept in the culinary field and hadn’t fucked it up as I suspected I would.
Final thoughts? Ratatouille is not the most difficult dish to make. In fact, it’s not even the most difficult dish I’ve ever made (damn you, duck à l’orange circa 2018).
So trying new recipes in general is not that hard; it’s just about not being lazy. The best food doesn’t come from a can or an airtight freezer bag, it comes from your kitchen. It comes from believing in yourself and your skills. It comes from hard work. Or, in this case, it comes from just putting in the effort.