Sunday, December 14, 2014

Apples to Truffles

Since it is December 14th, and the the Solstice is almost upon us, I think it is high time to write a blog entry for the Autumn Season!

I was reminded of Fall's fruitful bounty on Hornby when I recently stumbled across a box of long forgotten apples in my pantry.  I saved just enough of them to make my newest favourite apple dessert.

I am referring to the supremely delicious Tarte Tatin of french fame which I first tasted in a french restaurant  in Saigon last winter, I had barely managed the difficult task of  prying my barnacle-like husband, Glen, 'off the rock'.  The result was a very interesting and enjoyable cruise on the Mekong River.  (More on that later.)

To our delight, we discovered that one of the more positive results of the colonization of the Mekong Delta by Napoleon the third in the late 1800's, was the culinary legacy.  For a pittance of what you would pay in Paris, there are a  plethora of wonderful French restaurants.

Here we are, with some of the friends we made on our travels,  outside one of the best, Les Trois Gourmand, on the outskirts of Saigon.  We enjoyed a five course four hour dinner with wine for less than $50 dollars a person.
Owner and Chef Gils prides himself on his cheeses, foie gras, and truffles.  Look at these beauties that he proudly displayed to our astonishment.  

And here you see the new favourite dessert in our family.  The one on the right is the Tarte Tatin. And yes, this whole plate full was dessert for one, namely me!

Glen and I also enjoyed a dinner at La Badiane in Hanoi, housed in an old home of the vertical variety popular in Vietnam and Cambodia. (Stay tuned for more on the architecture of the region.)

I managed to get photos of the starters, lobster ravioli, and scallops of some sort, as well as one of our desserts.

And here we are at home on Hornby ready to partake of my last Tarte Tatin of the season!  
So Yummy!

Recipe for Tarte Tatin below.  If you want pictures and step by step directions google-


What You Need

6 Granny Smith apples, or other hard, tart apples
1 9-inch pie crust dough
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Ice cream or crème fraîche, optional for serving
Vegetable peeler
10-inch ovensafe skillet, cast iron or stainless steel preferred
Pie plate


→ Heat the oven to 375°F.
1. Peel and core the apples. Peel the apples, slice them into quarters, and remove the core. Roll out the pie crust to a little larger than 10 inches on a piece of wax paper and keep chilled in the refrigerator while you cook the apples.
2. Start the caramel sauce. Melt the better in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat, then stir in the sugar. It will be grainy and clumpy at first, then start to dissolve into a syrupy liquid.
3. Add the apples to the sauce. When the sugar and butter are bubbling, add the apples and sprinkle with salt. No need to be fancy with how you arrange the apples now.
4. Cook the apples until caramelized. Cook the apples, stirring every few minutes, until the sauce darkens to a deep amber caramel color. This should take 12 to 15 minutes. Be sure to turn the apples as you stir them so they are coated with the caramel sauce. A good indication of when the caramel sauce is done is if a drip holds its shape on a cool plate.
5. Top with the pie crust. Remove the pan of apples from the heat. With a fork and a spatula, turn the apples so their rounded surfaces are agains the bottom of the pan and arrange them in concentric circles. Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and drape it over the hot apples. Be careful not to touch the hot caramel sauce! Tuck the edges of the pie crust into the pan and prick with a fork.
6. Bake the tarte Tatin. Bake the tarte Tatin for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
7. Cool the tarte Tatin briefly. Set the tarte on a cooling rack and cool for 10-20 minutes.
8. Invert the tarte Tatin. Run a knife around the edge of the pie crust to separate it from the pan. Shake the skillet a few times to loosen the apples in the caramel sauce. Place the pie plate over the top of the skillet. Using oven mitts, grip the plate and the skillet and swiftly turn them both over so the pie plate is on the bottom and the skillet is on top.
9. Remove the skillet and make presentable. Gently lift the skillet away and re-arrange any stubborn apples that have gotten jostled out of place. Scrape any remaining caramel sauce from the pan and drizzle over the tarte.
10. Serve warm with ice cream or crème fraîche. Serve the tarte Tatin while it's still warm, topped with ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche. Leftover tarte can be kept refrigerated for several days (and make an excellent breakfast).

Additional Notes:

• Tarte Tatins with Other Fruits: Fruits of a similar hardness (quince, asian pear) can be cooked like apples. Softer fruits (apricots, pears, peaches) should be added to the skillet at the end of cooking the sauce, once the sauce has cooked to a dark amber color.
• Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin: Add an extra half teaspoon of salt to the caramel as it cooks, then sprinkle the top of the finished tarte with crunchy sea salt.