What Does A Tarte Tatin With Cinnamon Cardamom Ginger Vanilla Have To Do With A House?

I’ve always joked that the only way I’m going to live in a house again is if someone gives me one.

A few months ago, I heard about a contest, which happened to be somewhat local to me, in which a house in a tiny town up in the foothills of The Sierras was being given away. The town was Jackson, in Amador County, and the area is called “The Gold Country” due to the part this region played in the California gold rush. The contest submission required a dessert recipe that had never been published and $100. I usually don’t go for these types of things, but in this instance I said, what the heck!, it will get me out of The Escape Pod, get a roof over my head, and also get me out of The Bay Area, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now.

I wrote up the recipe below, an edited version of my original Tarte Tatin recipe. I couldn’t think of anything else to submit – with my change in diet, my favorite desserts have turned into oranges, or apples, or berries. The current owner of this property was going to test the top ten recipes, so I had to be sure that what I submitted represented my best work.

A Tarte Tatin is not as difficult to make as its reputation leads us to believe. It’s one French version of an apple pie and the ingredients are simple – apples, butter, sugar, flour. In order to make this recipe submissible to the contest, I only had to change a few ingredients. So I added the spices.

I was absolutely sure that this recipe was going to win me this house.

I was so sure in fact, that I spent a lot of my allotted daydreaming time visualizing how I was going to make the move and live there, what kind of new friends I would make, and how I would create a massive permaculture organic vegetable and fruit garden on the grounds. I visualized my art studio. I visualized my friends and family coming to visit from time to time and I even thought about finally opening that vegetarian/vegan cafe I’ve been thinking about. I visualized it so hard that I even wrote up a document, so that I could keep all my ideas straight and focused.

But, the contest was cancelled – one can only speculate that it was because there weren’t enough submissions – and my recipe along with the $100 is being sent back to me this week. So, no house – I’m still bound to The Escape Pod for now – but now I can publish my winning recipe myself!

Enjoy!

* * * * *

Apples cooking for a Tarte Tatin.
Apples simmering in butter and sugar on the stove.

You will need to simmer the apples in an 8-inch oven proof pan, like a cast iron skillet, or a chef’s pan, one in which the handle can go in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:
Filling:
4 big crisp apples, like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji. You don’t want apples like Macintosh that will cook down to sauce. The apples you use for this dish have to be able to stand the heat.
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of cardamom
1/4 tsp of ginger
1/4 tsp of vanilla

Pie Crust:
1 cup of pastry flour or 1+1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour
1/2 stick of butter
pinch of salt
dash of lemon juice
4+ tablespoons of ice water

To begin:
Peel and quarter the apples.
Melt the butter over a medium heat on the stove.
In the pan, mix the butter, spices, vanilla, and the sugar together.
If the mixture thickens, spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the apple quarters into a circle around the pan, fill the middle of the circle with apple too.
Turn the heat up. Your pan will dictate how high the flame should be, my pan is medium high, a cast iron pan would probably be high.
Let the apples simmer in the butter and sugar until the mixture carmelizes – starts turning brown.
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, you will remove the pan from the burner/flame but before that happens, you should have enough time to make the pie crust below.

Making the crust:
While the apples are simmering – or before you start the apple process – make a pie crust by mixing the above pie crust ingredients together.
Make this in a place where you can keep an eye on the apples simmering.
At first, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or by cutting the flour with two butter knives, one in each hand, striking back and forth.
Once the butter has been cut down to pea size then add the liquids (water and lemon juice) and spread those through the flour.
Then get in there with your hands and mix up the pastry dough.
You want to be careful to make sure that all the flour is absorbed, but not wet, and that you don’t overwork the dough.
If the dough is too wet, add more flour to it.
If you’ve made the crust ahead of time, just set it aside for when you are ready to do the following:

Form the dough into a flat disc at least 8 inches wide – as wide as your pan – or a little larger.
You can do this either by rolling, or just pressing the crust with your hands into a large disc shape.
I happen to like the rustic look of an uneven, hand-formed, crust.
If the crust is larger than the pan, the edges can, and should be, be tucked into the sides, so don’t worry about having too much pie crust dough.

Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.
Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.

Putting It Together And Baking:
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, remove the pan from the burner/flame, if you haven’t already.
Carefully place the crust over the top of the pan, being careful to either tuck the extra crust into the sides of the pan without burning yourself – use a spatula or flat wooden spoon to do so, or folding it back over itself so that it just meets the edge of the pan.
Put the whole pan into a 350 degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the crust has turned golden.
Remove from the oven.
Let sit until the tarte has cooled a bit.
Take a serving plate – one that the tarte will generously fit on – and place it over the crust.
Being VERY CAREFUL, because it’s hot, flip the plate and the pan together, so that the tarte ends up on the plate, crust side down, apples up.

Serve warm with crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, vanilla frozen yogurt, or vanilla Coconut Bliss.

Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream from my kitchen.
A classic warm Tarte Tatin made in my kitchen and served with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Note: When I flipped the tarte that I had made in the photographs above, I had a Julia Child moment where the apples slid off of the crust. No matter. I slid them back on as best I could. The tarte itself wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but it tasted divine.

Et voila!

Bon Appetit!

Out Of The Archives:
Butternut Squash And Potato Gratin

Butternut and Potato Gratin from my kitchen.

Butternut Squash et Pomme de Terre Gratin from my kitchen.

Creamy, cheesy, saucy, gratin. It almost doesn’t matter what kind of vegetables you put into it, it comes out of the oven tasting like a heavy dream.

Gratin is pronounced grah-tanh, although that’s not quite the right way to write the pronunciation, as you don’t really pronounce the letter n.

A gratin is a kind of casserole made from sliced vegetables, usually root vegetables like potatoes and onions, or sqaush. But gratins can be made from any vegetables that go well with an Emmentaler or Gruyere cream sauce.

Butternut Squash et Pomme de Terre Gratin

The size of your gratin will be dictated by the amount of vegetables you have on hand. The gratin in the photo above was only two small servings, made in a small Pyrex bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

Vegetables:
Butternut squash
Equal amount of potatoes – Yukon Golds will work well for this because they are sturdy and won’t fall apart

Sauce:
Emmentaler and/or Gruyere cheese, shredded, enough to cover the casserole dish + 1/4 cup for the sauce.
1 cup or 1-1/2 cups of milk
1 – 2 tablesppons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
ground pepper
dried basil
dried thyme

To prepare the squash in advance:
Bake the butternut squash in the oven at 350 degrees, just until a fork will go through it and the skin will peel off. You can do this up to a day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Putting the gratin together:
Peel the butternut squash.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into uniform slices about 1/8 of an inch thick.
Peel the potatoes.
Slice the potatoes evenly, about an 1/8 of an inch thick, so they are the same width/size as the squash slices.
Have a buttered oven-proof casserole dish at the ready.
Layer one layer of squash, then one layer of potatoes, then repeat until all the vegetables are layered in the dish.

Making Sauce:
You need a whisk to make this sauce.
Have the milk in a measuring cup or pitcher, sitting ready next to the stove.

In a sauce pan or saucier, on a very low flame, make a roux out of the butter and flour by first melting a couple of tablespoons of butter with ground pepper, a pinch of dried basil and a pinch of thyme.
Add the 1 – 2 tablespoons of flour to the melted butter.
With the whisk, thoroughly mix the butter with the flour, and let it cook until almost turning golden.
Be careful to keep an eye on it so as not to burn the pan.
Continue whisking and slowly pour a little of the milk slowly into the pan while whisking.
The flour will absorb the milk immediately, but keep whisking and keep slowly pouring in the milk.
Eventually the sauce will be thinned out.
Slowly simmer the sauce, while whisking continually.
DO NOT BOIL!
Add a little – about a 1/4 cup – shredded Emmentaler and/or Gruyere to the sauce.
Whisk some more until the cheese melts.
The sauce will start to thicken.
Take the sauce off of the flame.

Back to the Casserole:
Cover the top of the squash and potatoes with shredded Emmentaler or Gruyere cheese.
Pour the sauce over the potatoes and squash.

Put in the oven uncovered for about 1/2 an hour or 45 minutes.
Gratin is done when the sauce is bubbling and the top is a golden brown.

Et voila!

Bon Appetit!

Out Of The Archives:
Quiche aux Epinards avec Champignons et Oignons

Spinach Mushroom Quiche with a little Mixed Greens.
Spinach Mushroom Onion Quiche, with a little Mixed Greens with Vinaigrette.

Nothing defines classic French food like quiche. Originating from the Lorraine region of France, the quiche of today includes much more than ham and can be eaten at any time of the day as a meal or as a snack.

Quiche can be made from almost anything that pairs well with eggs and cheese and while there may be many parts to the process of making a quiche, it is relatively easy to throw one together. Making quiche a part of my culinary repertoire has also taught me that the process of French cooking and baking is much more forgiving than the French would have me believe.

Quiche aux Epinards avec Champignons et Oignons

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients:
Bunch of spinach, de-stemmed. I used about 1/2 a bunch in the quiche in the above photo.
Handful of mushrooms
1/4 +- of a large onion
Ementhaler cheese, shredded
4+ eggs
milk or cream
ground black pepper
dried basil
dried thyme
freshly ground nutmeg

Make a Pie Crust:
1 cup of pastry flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 a stick of soft butter
A squirt of lemon – if you have it
About 1/4 cup of chilled filtered water.

Directions for making pie crust:
In a large bowl put the flour and salt.
Add the 1/2 stick of butter.
Take two butter knives, one in each hand, using them like scissors, cut the butter into the flour.
Or use a pastry cutter.
Cut the butter down to peas size bits.
Add a squirt of lemon.
Cut the pastry some more.
Add chilled filtered water by the tablespoonful – usually ends up being about 3 or 4 tablespoons.
Keep cutting the flour until the water is absorbed.
Start mixing with your hands.
Squish the butter and mix the pastry until all of the flour is absorbed and you can form a ball.

Take the ball of pastry and either roll it out to fit into the pie pan, or flatten the ball with your hands and press the pastry into the pie pan, starting at the center and working in a concentric circle outwards.

Chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the ingredients are ready.

Make the filling:
This quiche has spinach, mushroom, and onion.
Chop all three vegetables into small bits.
In a saute pan or skillet dribble some olive oil.
Add some fresh ground pepper, dried basil, and dried thyme.
When the oil is hot, add the onions.
Saute the onions until almost clear.
Add the chopped mushrooms and spinach.
Saute until the vegetables sweat and the sweat is cooked off.
Remove from flame.

Make the egg mixture:
Number of eggs used depends on the size of the pie pan, the one used in the photo above was 8-inch.
In a bowl crack 4 eggs.
Add some milk or cream.
Whip with a whisk or an egg beater.
Add some ground black pepper.
Add some freshly ground nutmeg.
Whisk until thoroughly scrambled.

Putting it all together:
Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator.
Layer some shredded Ementhaler on the bottom of the pie crust.
On top of that add the spinach/mushroom/onion mixture.
Pour the egg mixture over the spinach.
Add some more shredded Ementhaler to not quite cover the top of the quiche.

Baking:
Put into a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes longer.
Keep an eye on it.
If it’s baking too fast and starting to brown too fast on top, turn the oven down to 325.
The quiche is done when you stick it in the middle with a knife and it comes out clean.

Spinach QUiche from my kitchen.
Spinach QUiche from my kitchen.

Let cool a little bit before eating. You can eat this dish hot, warm or cold, at any time of day!

Et Voila!

Bon Appetit!

Out Of The Archives:
Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream from my kitchen.
A classic warm Tarte Tatin made in my kitchen and served with Vanilla Ice Cream.

I haven’t made a Tarte Tatin in ages. Even though making a Tarte Tatin was the whole reason why I bought the 8-inch All-Clad Master Chef Fry Pan on sale, which, by the way, is the perfect size and shape for this tres riche dessert.

This decadent dessert was actually created out of a mistake. The story goes, that Stéphanie Tatin – one of two sisters who owned and operated the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron south of Paris – left a pan of apples simmering in butter and sugar too long on the stove while she was busy multitasking in the kitchen. In an attempt to save her dessert, she threw the pie crust onto the top of the apples and put the whole pan into the oven to cook the crust. And that was how a Tarte Tatin was born.

The name of this dish always confused me for some reason. Tarte is French for pie. Tatin is the name of the person who first made it. Tartine is an open faced sandwich, which doesn’t have anything to do with this dish, but is part of my lingual confusion.

It’s not until I first made this dish that I realized how overloaded with fat and sugar it is. Making one really puts the calories into perspective and I no longer eat large pieces of this dessert!

Tarte Tatin

Apples cooking for a Tarte Tatin.
Apples simmering in butter and sugar on the stove.

You will need to simmer the apples in an oven proof pan, like a cast iron skillet, or a chef’s pan, one in which the handle can go in the oven.

Ingredients:
Filling:
4 crisp apples, like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji. You don’t want apples like Macintosh that will cook down to sauce. The apples you use for this dish have to be able to stand the heat.
1/2 of a stick of butter
1/2 of a cup of sugar.

Pie Crust:
1 cup of pastry flour
1/2 stick of butter
pinch of salt
dash of lemon juice
4+ tablespoons of ice water

To begin:
Peel and quarter the apples.
Melt the butter over a medium heat on the stove.
Mix the butter and the sugar together.
If it thickens, spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the apple quarters into a circle around the pan, fill the middle of the circle with apple too.
Turn the heat up. Your pan will dictate how high the flame should be, my pan is medium high, a cast iron pan would probably be high.
Let the apples simmer in the butter and sugar until the mixture carmelizes – starts turning brown.
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, you will remove the pan from the burner/flame but before that happens, you should have enough time to make the pie crust below.

Making the crust:
While the apples are simmering – or before you start the apple process – make a pie crust by mixing the above pie crust ingredients together.
Make this in a place where you can keep an eye on the apples simmering.
At first, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or by cutting the flour with two butter knives, one in each hand, striking back and forth.
Once the butter has been cut down to pea size then add the liquids (water and lemon juice) and spread those through the flour.
Then get in there with your hands and mix up the pastry dough.
You want to be careful to make sure that all the flour is absorbed, but not wet, and that you don’t overwork the dough.
If the dough is too wet, add more flour to it.
If you’ve made the crust ahead of time, just set it aside for when you are ready to do the following:

Form the dough into a flat disc at least 8 inches wide – as wide as your pan – or a little larger.
You can do this either by rolling, or just pressing the crust with your hands into a large disc shape.
I happen to like the rustic look of an uneven, hand-formed, crust.
If the crust is larger than the pan, the edges can, and should be, be tucked into the sides, so don’t worry about having too much pie crust dough.

Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.
Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.

Putting It Together And Baking:
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, remove the pan from the burner/flame, if you haven’t already.
Carefully place the crust over the top of the pan, being careful to either tuck the extra crust into the sides of the pan without burning yourself, or folding it back over itself so that it just meets the edge of the pan.
Put the whole pan into a 350 degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the crust has turned golden.
Remove from the oven.
Let sit until the tarte has cooled a bit.
Take a plate – one that the tarte will generously fit on – and place it over the crust.
Being VERY CAREFUL because it’s hot, flip the plate and the pan together, so that the tarte ends up on the plate, crust side down, apples up.

Serve warm with crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, or vanilla frozen yogurt.

Note: When I flipped the tarte that I had made in the photographs above, I had a Julia Child moment where the apples slid off of the crust. No matter. I slid them back on as best I could. The tarte itself wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but it tasted divine.

Et voila!

Bon Appetit!

Pico de Gallo

FoodSalsa7599

Pico de Gallo is probably one of the easiest Mexican dishes to make. Considered to be a salad in and of itself, its three main ever-present ingredients are fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. But there are really as many variations on the Pico de Gallo theme as there are cooks wielding knives.

Pico de Gallo is also commonly, although mistakenly, called a salsa. When many people think of salsa, they are actually picturing Pico de Gallo. Salsa is the word for sauce in Spanish and salsa is much more of a thick spicy liquid than the chopped, chunky Pico de Gallo. Salsas also have many different flavors as they can be made with more variety of ingredients such as tomatoes, tomatillos, any variety of chilis, mango, or avocado as their primary base.

Pico de Gallo is a raw vegetable and fruit – since tomatoes are technically a fruit – dish and is very easy to prepare. All you need are the ingredients, a bowl, a cutting board, and a good knife.

For it to be a true Pico de Gallo, the ingredients must be fresh, no canned items or dried herbs! In El Norte, this may be something that is limited to the summer months because of the availability of fresh ingredients.

FoodSalsa7598

The Main Ingredients:
Ripe tomatoes, and if they are available, make them heirloom and organic for the flavor. Organic cherry tomatoes work well too.
Red onion
Sprigs of fresh cilantro

The Secondary Ingredients: All or Any
A clove or two of fresh garlic
A serrano or jalapeno pepper
Red and/or green bell pepper
The juice of a lime or two and if you can’t find a lime, a lemon will do
A splash of olive oil
A dash of salt

Directions:
– Chop up the ingredients into small bits and put in the bowl. Mix. Done.
– Things do not have to be perfectly sized as Pico de Gallo is very chunky. When you chop the tomatoes, make sure to capture the juice and put it in the bowl as well. The heat in the jalapeno peppers lives in their seeds. Some people take out the seeds and some leave the seeds in, it’s up to you and how you like it.

Tips:
– This dish is much more fun to make without a food processor.
– If red onions are too harsh for you when used raw, saute them for a moment to sweeten them up.

Other ingredients that also make Pico de Gallo yummy (but probably not all of these together):
Diced avocado, mango, or papaya.

What to do with Pico de Gallo?
– Open a bag of chips and dip right in.
Pico de Gallo tastes great topped on grilled chicken or fish. Use either cold, or saute very quickly to warm it up.
– Scramble into eggs, stuff into an omrlette with some jack cheese, or toss into/onto home fries.
– Salsa does like to be paired with sour cream.
– Toss into a green mixed salad with cooled grilled chicken (or just the green salad for you vegetarians).
– Stir into guacamole or a bowl of sour cream for a more creamy and cool dip.

Enjoy!

Do you have a variation on Pico de Gallo that you love? Let us know about it in the comments.