A timeless and masterful cartoon gave rebirth to an ancient French dish - Tian Provençal. There are in fact two classic French dishes made with similar ingredients. One is Ratatouille Niçoise, and the other Tian Provençal.
Today we will prepare a beautiful and delicious Tian Provençal, the one we have come to know and love as "Ratatouille".
The ingredients used for Tian Provençal are similar to the basic ingredients in Ratatouille, except that one - Tian - is layered systematically and elegantly in a earthenware dish and placed on top of a rich sauce, while the other - Ratatouille - is cooked like a stew. Throughout France both were originally born as a "peasant dish", prepared in the summer when the farmers harvested the abundance of vegetables grown in their gardens. In spite of their humble beginnings, Ratatouille and Tian are today equally loved and served in French kitchens, restaurants and even throughout the world.
Tian usually consists of courgettes (zucchini), peppers of all colors, tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh herbs of Provence. Recently it is customary to also add aubergine (eggplant) and yellow squash to this classic, timeless dish. We took the liberty to even add a few red potatoes. Tian Niçoise will most certainly become a favorite comfort food when introduced into your kitchen.
Today, just like in ancient times our Tian will be baked in a wood-fired oven.
3 medium yellow or vidalia onions cut into thin rondelles 1/8-inch thick (reserve one for the sauce)
3-4 zucchini thinly sliced into rondelles 1/8-inch thick
5 ripe tomatoes thinly sliced into rondelles 1/8-inch thick
4-5 ripe, medium tomatoes peeled and coarsely cubed, or tomatoes from a can. We used canned tomatoes in this recipe.
3-4 eggplants thinly sliced into rondelles 1/8-inch thick
4 red bell peppers left whole
4 small red potatoes sliced into rondelles 1/8-inch thick
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Make sure to always choose seasonal, fresh produce and herbs.
With the help of a mandolin you can easily set the preferred thickness and evenly slice all the vegetables into perfect rondelles.
Preheat the oven to 400°F - 204°C. Before placing the Tian in the oven make sure to check the temperature of the stone inside the cooking chamber with the infrared thermometer.
Mince the garlic and finely chop the thyme. Dried thyme can also be used, but fresh thyme has a much better flavor. Place the minced garlic, thyme, hot pepper flakes and salt in a bowl. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil into the bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Now for the sauce which will be spread in the bottom of the skillet, take the onion that was reserved and dice it.
Blanch some of the tomatoes in boiling hot water as it will make the peeling mush easier. You can also use canned tomatoes to prepare the sauce for the base of the dish, which is what we did.
Cut the blackened bell peppers into strips. To blacken the peppers you can check the directions and recipe here.
Drizzle olive oil inside a hot skillet. Add one chopped onion to the skillet and sauté until translucent.
Add the roasted and peeled peppers, the tomatoes, and 3 cloves of garlic to the skillet. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
When time is up, puree all ingredients with a hand held food processor.
While the sauce is simmering slice the zucchini, squash, potatoes, eggplant and onions with the mandolin and set them aside. 1/8th inch.
With a sharp knife or the mandolin slice the tomatoes very uniformly and thinly. 1/8th inch.
Begin to equally stack all slices of each vegetable on top of each other alternating into single piles. Doing this will make the assembly much easier.
Once all have been stacked, you are ready for the next step.
Generously spoon and spread the pureed sauce in the bottom of the skillet.
Begin placing the stacked vegetables over the sauce and continue stacking all the way around the dish as shown in the video. Fill even the center of the skillet with the stacked vegetables.
Drizzle and infuse the herb and olive oil mixture evenly over all the slices with the help of a basting brush.
Make sure to check the temperature of the oven with your infrared thermometer. The optimum temperature should be around 375°F - 400°F 190°C - 204°C.
Initially cover the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the top from browning too quickly. After 35 minutes of baking, remove the foil and place the dish back into the oven for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.