Dana Slatkin

Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Ratatouille and Mozzarella

Baked Potato RatatouilleWhen I was working at Michel Guerard’s restaurant in France, there was one expression that was music to my ears. Every day at about 5 pm, one of the cooks would yell, “Bouffe!” to announce the staff “nosh.” We would all gather at a long farm table — cooks, dishwashers, servers and sommeliers — to enjoy a hearty meal before facing the orchestrated chaos of the dinner service.

This dish was one of my favorites, because it got me through the evening while leaving me feeling light in my clogs. It was usually accompanied by a large platter of braised meat or a whole roasted fish. But to me, a giant roasted spud overflowing with stewed vegetables and bubbling cheese is completely satisfying on its own.

The art of ratatouille lies in the cut of the vegetables — the daintier the dice, the more refined the dish — as well as in the cooking. My 3-star mentors would have fired me on the spot had I sautéed the components simultaneously. But my version saves on time and olive oil. I’ve also found that Japanese eggplants have fewer seeds and are best for holding their shape and color. As for the traditional salting of the vegetables to drain the excess liquid, it’s simply not needed.

Adding black olives, mushrooms, capers, anchovies, or raisins to the mix would probably further infuriate the gods of classic French cuisine. But this ratatouille’s not destined for a silver tray. It’s family chow — wonderfully uncomplicated and deliciously nourishing.

Serve these spuds on their own, or as an accompaniment to Porcini-Crusted Salmon. Finish with a Poached Pear Filled with Chocolate Ganache.

Don’t forget to enter our March cooking contest!

Photo credit: kitchendaily.com

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