Sunday, January 17, 2010

Respect the Vegetable: Ratatouille Sandwich

The Ratatouille Sandwich is a bit high maintenance but the results are well worth it. An earlier incarnation was made with a much more superior ciabatta loaf; but this time they were sold out leaving me, instead, with ciabatta rolls. I don't want to flat-out say that they (the rolls) ruined my sandwich, but if I had to do over again, I'd store the components (each vegetable) separately and go back for the loaf the next day.

Why respect the vegetable?
Vegetables had always been an after thought for me; some necessary component to a complete dish. I never really respected vegetables. It all started when I got the idea to marinate some blanched green beans in a soy/mirin/sesame oil/honey/garlic/ginger/scallion/red pepper flake solution. After a brief sauté they were unreal. Long story short: I learned to treat vegetables as you would proteins (try it). I then saw this sandwich. I was inspired to vamp on it.

Here is my version.

Ratatouille Sandwich

1 Loaf Ciabatta Bread
6 Tomatoes (plum, vine, heirloom though preferably local)
1 Eggplant
1 Sweet Onion
2 Red Peppers (Roasted, Seeded, and Peeled)
1 Green Pepper (Roasted, Seeded, and Peeled)
4 Dried Porcini or Shitake Mushrooms
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence (My version: Oregano, Basil, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme)
Mozzarella Cheese
Goat Cheese (or Bleu Cheese)
Balsamic Reduction
Sea or Kosher Salt

Two days before!
Prep Tomatoes
Cut tomatoes in half length-wise, place cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan; brush peanut oil lightly over their skins and place in a 150-200° (F) oven, with the door open, overnight.
Peel and seed tomatoes then place them in a fine mesh strainer, covered with plastic wrap, over a bowl in the fridge overnight.
The next day reserve the liquid and keep tomatoes covered with wrap.

Roast and peel the peppers. Place in fridge after cooling.
Reduce some balsamic vinegar and let cool. Place in fridge after cooling.

On the Day of Consumption
Cook The Eggplant
Cut eggplant into 1/4" discs and assemble them onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle generously with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Lightly salt and place into a 400° (F) oven and monitor closely until tops are barely dried. Flip them over and lightly salt; continue cooking until, once again, the tops are barely dried. Remove and let cool.

Rehydrate Mushrooms
Place dried mushrooms in a hot, just off the boil, solution that is half chicken stock (preferably homemade) , half red wine, and add a splash of cognac or brandy after the liquid is off the heat but before adding the mushrooms. Let stand for5 minutes, then remove the mushrooms and reserve the liquid.

Caramelize the Onions
Saute the onion in some peanut oil and fresh thyme until caramelized. Salt to taste. Set aside.

Final Reductions
Reduce the liquids from the tomatoes and mushrooms by half to three quarters. Salt to taste. The tomato "juice" will be sweet and intense. The mushroom "sauce" will be only slightly sweet but wonderfully rich and earthy. Set aside.

One Last Condiment
Add chili powder to your favorite mayonnaise to taste. Mix well.

Assemble the sandwich
Place ciabatta cut-side up on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toast in oven set to "Broil" until very lightly toasted. Remove and in the following order assemble the sandwich on the bottom slice.

Drizzle of Mushroom "sauce"
Herbs de Provence
Roasted Peppers
Drizzle of Tomato "juice"
Mozzarella Cheese
Goat Cheese

Place under broiler until cheese is all melty.

Spread chili mayo on top-side bread

Drizzle balsamic reduction over cheeses

Serve open-faced and enjoy.