Monday, August 14, 2006

Westworld! Westworld! Party Time! Excellent!

(Let's just see how many goofball pop culture references I can insert in a blog post, shall we?)

Go West! And eat things like braised lamb shanks and spinach pancakes. Not quite what you thought, was it? There are days I wonder where the hell Chef's brain was when he came up with these menus.

Today, we had the following:

Corn Chowder (collectively, as a class, we suck at soup. The white bean stew from last week has been the only soupy thing of note, which probably doesn't bode well for our grades.)

Braised Lamb Shanks (since I've never cooked lamb on a regular basis before this class, preparing it has been pretty interesting. Before this class, I've only thrown a lamb chop or two on the grill for The Man to have as a side item or appetizer when we are grilling.)

Trout Amandine (fried fish with a lemon-butter sauce with toasted almonds. Fried fish! lemon-butter! Yeah!)

Spinach Pancakes (these were surprisingly tasty and crispy, without being overdone. Snaps to me!)

Risotto with Parmesan Cheese

Cheese Grits

Turnip Greens

Tart Tatin (!!)

The turnip greens were supposed to be glazed turnips, but somehow that was miscommunicated on the requisition given to the Introductory Chef who is also the Supply Chef. So, we made do with what we had, and did them like collard greens, with some bacon and a little vinegar, sugar, and hot sauce. Not too shabby.

I must admit that with the fried trout, greens, and grits, it seemed more like the South than the menu we did for that region.

We also pulled off another coupe today. Regional Chef said that no class had ever managed to finish the lamb shanks, and that they had always had to wait until the next class to taste them. Well, the Chiclet and I are 2 for 2 on impossible tasks--remember the cheese and herb biscuits from last week that we pulled off? Today, we finished the lamb shanks and actually had them with our meal. They probably could have cooked another 30 minutes or so, but they weren't too bad. I'm still not a big lamb fan, and I've probably eaten more of it this quarter than I ever have.

Let's cut to the chase and talk about the Tart Tatin (tart tah-TAN)...apples, sugar, puff pastry--what on earth could be bad about this? Nothing, that's what. Big Stuff was in charge of the dessert today, and he did okay...his apples were a little too brown in the end, but we're just so grateful to get dessert...well, you get the picture. Tart Tatin is a classic French dessert...sort of an upside-down apple pie...which was first served at the Hotel Tatin in the late 1800s, and later became a famous staple at Maxim's. You're supposed to actually make the pastry dough, but in the interests of time and our collective lack of baking skills, Chef took pity on us and let us use the puff pastry. I think he was happier for it. You can also make Tart Tatin with pears, plums or even a savory one with onions.

Here's the recipe:

Tart Tatin (1 9-inch tart)

3 lbs Peeled, sliced apples

3 oz Butter

8 oz Sugar

Puff Pastry sheet


1. Peel apples, cut in half vertically, and remove cores. Halves or quarters work.

2. Select heavy 10-inch skillet or sauté pan. Melt butter in the skillet, and cover butter with sugar in an even layer.

3. Arrange apples in the pan on top of sugar. Start by standing apple halves on one end in a circle around the sides of the pan. Fill center with remaining apple halves. Pan should be completely full of apple halves standing on their edges and leaning against each other. They should protrude above the rim of the pan, but they will sink as they cook, making a 1 ½-inch tart.

4. Set pan over moderate heat and cook until bottom of apples are soft, and the juices are thick and syrupy, about 30 minutes. The tops of the apples will be barely cooked, but will be cooked with tart is baked.

Pre-heat oven to 425°F.

5. Take sheet of puff pastry and cut a circle to fit over the top of the apples. Lay pastry circle in place on top of the apples.

6. Bake at 425°F about 30-40 minutes, until pastry is brown and apples are well caramelized.

7. Let tart stand to cool slightly. The juices will jell or will partially reabsorb so that the tart can be turned out. Place a cake circle or a platter over the pan, then invert pan onto the circle or platter to turn out tart. The tops of the apple should have a rich caramel color. If more shine is desired, the top can be dusted with sugar and caramelized under a broiler. Serve warm or at room temp. Fling some whipped cream on it, too. Lots of whipped cream. Lots.

It was a tough weekend here at Poodlevania. The Man's grandfather passed away on Friday, and I found out my grandmother has entered the final stages of Alzheimer's disease--her body is really declining. We've sort of been riding an emotional rollercoaster for the last couple of days. However, The Man's aunt, cousins, and his mom (my to die for mother-in-law!) are coming in later this week to hang out and possibly let me experiment with some cooking for them. Maybe I could teach them all how to de-bone chicken legs and we'll do the duxelles thing again! Or, I can prepare some of my world-famous dirt sauce! But, no matter what, there will be a rice pilaf somewhere in the mix!

Now, I must tatin myself off to bed...


Linna said...

Sorry to hear about The Man's grandfather. But it's nice that your MIL is coming.

I've always wanted to make a tart Tatin! (Is it really named for two little old ladies who had a restaurant?) What kind of apples did you use? They need to be firm enough to hold together and not turn to mush.

Poodlebugz said...

As far as I can find out, the two sisters thing is true. : ) We used Granny Smith, but other recipes I have seen call for Golden Delicious. I think ours was not sweet enough; however, I think you need a firmer apple, so something like Gala might work as well.

Kim said...

The Tart Tatin sounds good.

I'm sorry to hear about The Man's grandfather. My grandmother suffered from Parkinson's with dementia and it is rough to work with them. She lived with us the last 3 years of her life and left us with some stories.