Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apple Custard Tart



Having gone apple picking last weekend and given into my uncontrollable urge to fill the bushel bags with reckless abandon, I have a serious glut of apples in my house.  I've shared them generously and forcefully with friends, neighbors, and total strangers, and we've consumed a goodly share ourselves.  But the fridge is still overstocked with apples.

So I've been actively seeking apple recipes, and was delighted to find this brown butter apple tart in Bon Appetit this month.  I reviewed the recipe and was dismayed to discover that the crust was a two-day, rolling pin affair--I loathe rolling dough.

"Forsooth", said I, "My magic dough will fare just as well."  And it did.  One other simplification tactic I used:  no need to core the apples and slice them into rings as BA suggests.  This is a total pain, and risks slicing fingers as well as apples.  I started with this thankless enterprise and promptly abandoned it.  Just cut the apples as you normally would but make thinner slices.
 

The baked custard filling of this tart gives it more depth and richness than a typical pie, crisp or tart.  It starts with vanilla beans and butter--but if you don't have vanilla beans, you can melt and brown the butter solo and add vanilla extract to the egg custard mixture in the bowl.


For the crust:

Magic Dough:

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

Beat with mixer til dough forms crumbly bits the size of lentils.  Press dough into bottom and up sides of 9 inch tart pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and proceed with brown butter apple tart recipe.

Note:  This is the same dough we use in our raspberry bars, and fruit tarts.  It can also be rolled into logs and sliced into shortbread cookies.  See why we call it magic?



Monday, November 12, 2012

Beef Stew by the Husband

We strongly encourage culinary interest in the men in our lives.  I am delighted to say that my husband has continued his run of taking over the kitchen on Sundays.

Poor guy. He's the one who is forever missing specialty dishes at home when he travels for business. Then he comes home on a weekend and volunteers to take on Sunday dinner. He favors  hearty, manly foods like stews, braises, and lotsa meat. Last week, he pulled out his trusty Beef Stew recipe, courtesy of epicurious, and made a generous tub in advance of Hurricane Sandy's arrival.

Now, I know better than to make unsolicited suggestions to someone who is willing to cook dinner for me.  At least not to his face.  But I have to say that the beauty of a stew is that all of the ingredients are tossed in together, simmered to tenderness and spooned out later.  This version requires a lot of different pots, many steps, at least one massive strain of hot ingredients through a colander, two versions of cooked vegetables (one for the stock, which is discarded, and one to simmer during the final hour of cooking and eat.)   In sum, an awful lot of fuss for a meal that, in my mind, should be simple.

However--and this is a biggie--you can't argue with the results.  The stew is delicious, and I am spared both the cooking and the cleanup.  I am also given another night off, because this recipe makes enough for about 10 people, so I normally freeze half and save it for a(nother) rainy day.

He started by searing the meat, removing it from the pot, setting it aside,

preparing the braising liquid with wine, veggies, broth, and seasonings....


 Served with roasted golden cauliflower, crusty bread and a simple green salad, the stew was pretty great.  Followed by my brown butter apple tart (to be featured in upcoming post) we were well fortified to withstand the anticipated storm.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Pasta E Faglioli Soup


Pasta e Fagioli Soup

On a blustery autumnal weekend, I slipped into a coffee shop for sustenance.  I  had this heart-warming Italian soup and decided on the spot that I wanted to try to repeat the recipe at home for my family.

I'm not a fan of clear watery soups, consomm├ęs, pureed soups, but give me a hearty stew-like concoction and I'm a happy bunny.  Hence this Pasta e Faglioli (pasta and beans) soup does the trick.

Rachel Ray's simple 30 minute no nonsense version was a breeze to make.  Highly recommended.

After sweating down the veggies and the pancetta, I threw everything in a crockpot on low for a couple of hours and put my feet up.

The sweaty veggies smelt heavenly...



















This soup came in useful during Hurricane Sandy, when the kids were unexpectedly off school for two days because of the stormy weather.

Paired with a couple of roast chickens we had an unexpected feast.