Apple and Frangipane Tart

Apple and Frangipane TartAbout a week or so ago, the hubster and I drove up to Northern Utah to visit my mother in law. She sent us home with a huge bag of apples (unsure of the specific varietal), that I fresh picked off the tree. With so many apples, it seemed so one-note to only turn them into apple sauce, so I thought it called perfectly for an apple and frangipane tart.

As a cooking note, it is really important that you refrigerate your tart after each step. In order to achieve the flaky pastry effect, your bits of butter must be very cold at the time of baking. The steam from the butter will create the layers of flakiness, and it just won’t do that if your pastry dough is warm.

Here is my recipe:

1. Start with your Pâte Brisée:

I used my Cuisinart food processor to make this, but you can just as easily make this by hand.

Add

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar

1/4 teaspoons salt

10 tablespoons of very cold butter to your bowl

Process for about 5 seconds.

Add to this

1/3 cup of ice cold water.

Process just until the dough comes together and stop immediately. Your butter bits should be visible.

Form this into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge.

2. Make your frangipane:

Grind to a coarse mix:

3/4 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup sugar

Add to this

1 egg

A splash of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of melted butter

Mix until combined well.

2.5 Interim steps:

Remove your dough from the fridge, and roll it into about a 14″ round. Carefully transfer your dough to your tart pan, and gently press the dough into the edges of the pan. Gently remove any excess dough. Spread your frangipane over the bottom of the tart. Refrigerate again, while you cut your apples. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees at this point.

3. Peel, core, and cut your apples:

I peeled, cored, and cut 4 apples, but didn’t use all of the slices. Once your apples are peeled, cut your apple in half vertically, from the stem. I used a melon baller to easily core the apples. Then, lay your apple, cut side down, and vertically slice your apple into about 1/4″ slices. Set aside.

4. Assemble:

Remove your tart shell from the fridge, assemble the apple slices. As you can see, I did concentric circles that reversed at each new circle. Sprinkle over this 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for one hour. Your tart should be light brown, and your apples should be cooked, and have caramelized from the sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Finishing Steps:

Once your tart is cooled. Sieve about 1/4 cup of apricot preserves, and mix into this about 1 tablespoon of rum or calvados if desired. Using a pastry brush, gently paint the apples with the preserves. Serve.

Chicken with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

Chicken with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

I’m a huge fan of this recipe. I have made it a few times before, always to rave reviews. A few important notes about this recipe that I would share before posting the recipe are:

1. If at all possible, make your own stock. If you are out, or just don’t bother, please make sure that you ONLY use low-salt or salt free packaged stock. This is incredibly important because these pre-packaged broths are very high in sodium, and since you are reducing it by half to intensify the taste of the chicken, you are also intensifying the salt. So, unless you like eating a salt lick, this is important. If, however, you prefer a salt lick, by all means be my guest.

2. I cannot stress the importance of tasting the sauce as you go along making it. This recipe calls for 6 lemons, but even cut down to five this is a very lemony sauce, and I usually wind up cutting it with 4 tablespoons of butter at the end of the sauce. You might reduce the lemons to 3 or 4 depending on how big they are, and then further cut the butter to 2 tbs. BUT! You are never going to know this unless you are tasting as you go along. Don’t forget to season the sauce with salt, too!

3. This recipe also calls for chicken breasts, but I rather prefer chicken thighs for this because of the extended cooking times — they stay nice and juicy throughout the cooking process. I cooked mine as the recipe called for them to be cooked because I purchased my thighs from my local grocer (Harmon’s), which are a bit bigger. If you source yours locally or from Whole Foods they will likely be smaller, so you will want to adjust your cooking time in the oven to accommodate. Mine came out perfectly.

Ingredients

5 large lemons
Gray salt (I used regular Kosher salt, so whatever your preference)
6 boneless chicken breast halves, skin on (again, I used chicken thighs here)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes, such as red bliss, halved
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 cups double-strength chicken stock, or 4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth boiled until reduced by half
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Preheat the broiler.

Cut a small slice off both ends of each lemon, and then cut in half crosswise. Arrange the lemons, flesh side up, in a flameproof nonreactive baking dish, and season with salt. Broil 6 inches or more from the heat until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Squeeze the lemon halves over a sieve suspended over a bowl. Push and stir the pulp through the sieve with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to get as much juice out as possible. Discard the lemon peels.

Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken, lower the heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate or baking sheet.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and tossing, until brown all over, about 10 minutes. Drain off the excess oil. Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the potatoes and place in the oven until potatoes and chicken are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and put the pan with the potatoes over medium-high heat. Toss well so the pan juices are absorbed into the potatoes. Scrape the potatoes out of the pan onto the platter around the chicken.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the garlic and rosemary, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of chicken broth and reserved lemon juice. Stir and scrape up all the browned bits that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan, and then add the remaining 1 cup broth. Bring to a simmer stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too lemony, stir in the optional butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and potatoes and serve immediately, garnished with rosemary sprigs

On My Mind

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Today, one of my colleagues laughingly called me a snob. I laughed it off… It’s nothing that I haven’t heard before, but I started to think about the connotation of the word, and I think it’s not the right word for me. Snob indicates elitism, doesn’t it? When I think about snobs, I think of “Mean Girls”. So, I carry my own salt (not always, but when I do it’s Morton’s, just in a pinch!), and I choose to buy fewer things that have better quality, and I pay a lot of attention to detail in the items I bring into my life on a daily basis. OK. So MAYBE I could be called eccentric in the sense that I am anomalous in a world of people who don’t take precise care. After all, as Julia Child said, nothing is too much trouble that turns out the way it ought to. I own that. The best word though? I think the best word to describe me is ME. I am OK with who I am, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it!

So, what about discerning? Isn’t it just about personal style?

Speaking of which, Iris Apfel talks about personal style in this great video from a NY Times article several years ago. I’m a huge fan!

And don’t you love my new shoes? I got a screaming deal through DSW. They are Cole Haan Air Monica ballet flats. I had two coupons, so wound up with $30 off! Though I could have managed with a half size smaller, because of the construction of the flat I don’t notice. They are terribly comfortable, and so cute! I’m wearing them with Lilly Pulitzer Travel Pants in black.

Fountain Pens

TWSBI Vac700 and J. Herbin Rouge Hematite Anniversary Ink

TWSBI Vac700 and J. Herbin Rouge Hematite Anniversary Ink

When the 6-hour A&E Pride and Prejudice aired many years ago, the visual of those characters writing with fountain pen and great paper became extremely alluring to me. Although I clearly remember buying an old-school dip fountain pen, and writing often with it, I’m not sure how I made the transition to a regular fountain pen.

My very first fountain pen was the Parker Vector and I loved it. I didn’t use anything too crazy — just standard replacement cartridges. I loved the flow of the ink as I wrote — there is something so transcendental about watching the ink flow out as you write your words. (Does the ink know what words it will become? Didn’t John Lennon write: “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup…”) I especially loved to use my Vector to write notes to my friends in cypher text, and I really loved writing letters. :-)

Then there was college, and there was e-mail. Though I still wrote some letters, the instantly gratified me shifted to writing e-mails. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter to a friend, which is shameful to say.

About 6 months ago, our local Office Depot announced they were closing. It dawned on me that I should see if any Fountain Pens were on sale, so I patiently waited until I could get a good deal on one. I settled on a Cross Century, and something interesting happened — I discovered a clique of fountain pen aficionados at my office! I was indoctrinated to the customizable ways of fountain pen inks and converters. I wasn’t entirely disappointed with my Century NOT being customizable, but saw it as a reason to collect new inks and pens. Of course.

Having done quite a bit of research and asking around, I finally purchased a TWSBI Vac700 and a bottle of J. Herbin Rouge Hematite Anniversary Ink. Of course I am obsessed with anything you can see the contents of, so this TWSBI seemed the natural choice, and the ink has flecks of gold in it. The best part is I got both for practically free, since I won a few eBay gift cards. I even managed NOT to spill ink all over the place as I was learning to fill my pen, although I DID get some on my hands.

I think the time has come to even get back into letter writing — maybe I will set a challenge for myself in the New Year, now that I have some great new pens to write with.

Wipocalypse, October 2014

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I know I have posted a progress pic of Celtic Banner on Instagram, but I don’t think I have done so here. I know I didn’t do the September post… Things were just crazy. So you can now see how much progress I’ve made since the beginning of August!

At this point I am starting to get sick of working on this! I’ve definitely lost my mojo for this piece, but I am so close to finishing it that if I don’t just power through now it will languish for who knows how long u til I pick it up again, only to say “I wonder why I didn’t just finish it the last time I worked on it”. The up side is it will be another major WIP finish for the year! A new start is definitely in order when this is done, and that is definitely keeping me motivated to finish this.

Anyhoo, the question for this month is whether I am a Christmas or a Halloween stitcher. I would definitely answer Christmas. Although I don’t have anything Christmas-y in my rotation currently, I have quite a few things planned (and almost nothing Halloween-y). Which reminds me that I have long wanted to start either TW’s Holly and the Ivy or TWs 12 Days of Christmas. Maybe one of those will be a new start. I’ll have to pull it out of my stash. Hmmm…

Introducing… ROCKY!

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The company I work for does a lot of charity work. This year we held a week-long charity event to benefit the Utah Humane Society, capped off with an adoption event at the end. Having lost two of our furbabies this summer, I encouraged my husband to come and check out the adoption event. “I don’t think they will bring any little dogs,  but I have 15 minutes between meetings, so come and meet me”, I told my husband. Of course we get there, and what do you know – they brought TWO chihuahuas! I picked up Rocky, and he put his arms right around my neck. Between that and my total inability put him down, it seems he chose us as much as we chose him.

Rocky began his life as “Haivyn”, which is seriously a dumb name for anyone or anything. We renamed him Rocky, after Rocky Balboa. The great thing is that this is a double mitzvah, since Rocky was rescued from a high kill shelter in Los Angeles.

Rocky is 14 months old, and so adorable. He was a bit underweight when we adopted him, but now he is a healthy weight, having been given a clean bill of health by the fabulous staff at Alta Veterinary Hospital. (If you are in the area and need a great vet, we couldn’t recommend them any more – so caring and knowledgeable). He has taken well to crate training, and was about 80% house trained when we adopted him, though we have closed the loop on that.

We have some funny videos of him chasing his tail, so I will save those for another day – he is seriously entertaining! There are some other hilarious things he does that we hope to record and post soon as well. Otherwise he is a real snuggle bug when not playing with his toys, or trying to lick every inch of your skin! We are so glad to have him join our family.

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TUSAL – September 2014

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Here is my TUSAL for September. As you can see, I’ve practically doubled my ORT volume since I last posted. I’ve done a significant amount of stitching on MLI’s Celtic Banner, so much so that I think I will have TWO major Happy Dances this year! I really don’t have much more to do on it:

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How diligent of me to finish more WIPs instead of start new ones (though that is coming next… Definitely…which also means I get TWO new starts!).