Pear and Almond Tart

I served this elegant tart on Thanksgiving Eve this year. It was very well received! The classic combination of pears and almonds was absolutely delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Dolester Miles’ recipe in Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, via The Washington Post. The restaurant is located in Birmingham, Alabama. I used poaching liquid instead of rum in the filling and reduced the baking time. Wonderful!

Yield: 8 servings

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup plus 3 T flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the Pears:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • half a vanilla bean, split
  • one 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 (large) to 6 almost-ripe, firm pears, such as Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored

For the Filling:

  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 T Calvados, dark rum, or poaching liquid
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup blanched/slivered or sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

To Make the Crust:

  1. Use cooking oil spray to grease a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Place the flour in a food processor.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and cubes of butter into the flour. Pulse until the butter is pea-sized.
  4. Pour the egg over the mixture; pulse just until the dough begins to come together.
  5. Turn the dough out onto the counter, and then gather it into a disk.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 1 day.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. (I roll the dough out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.)
  8. Transfer it to the tart pan, using your fingertips to line the pan with the dough. Trim the edges even with the rim of the pan.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

To Poach the Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the pears; once the liquid begins to bubble at the edges, cook the pears for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are tender and the tip of a paring knife slips into them easily. Let them cool in their liquid. Discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

To Make the Filling and Finish the Tart:

  1. When ready to assemble, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using for the topping.
  3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Reduce the speed to low; add the egg, ground almonds, flour, Calvados, rum, or poaching liquid and the almond extract. Beat for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
  5. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Unwrap and pour in the filling, spreading it evenly.
  6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, placing them in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for this recipe; reserve and refrigerate the rest for poaching more fruit later.
  7. Place the pears cut sides down on the tart filling, side by side with the narrow ends facing in, until the entire surface of the tart is covered with pears. Cover the edge of the tart to prevent over-browning and bake (middle rack) for about 28 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Meanwhile, cook the reserved cup of poaching liquid in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduced to a glaze – about 2 to 3 tablespoons total. Remove from the heat.
  9. Once the tart comes out of the oven, brush it with the glaze, then scatter the toasted almonds evenly over the top. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Note: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. The pears can be stored in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The poaching liquid can be reused.

Jacques Pepin’s Quick-Roasted Chicken with Mustard & Garlic

Yield: Serves 6

  • One 4 to 4 1/2-pound chicken
  • 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T dry white or red wine
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco (I used Chipotle Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees on convection roast or 450 degrees in a standard oven.
  2. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the chicken backbone and remove it. Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breast bone to flatten the chicken.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut partway through both sides of the joint between the thighs and the drumsticks. Cut partway through the joint between the wings and the breast.
  4. In a bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients.
  5. Turn the chicken breast down and spread it with half of the mustard mixture.
  6. Set the chicken in a large skillet skin side up; spread with the remaining mixture. (I put the chicken in a 9″x13″ pyrex dish and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours.)
  7. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large skillet, skin side up, and place over high heat. (I used a 12″ cast iron skillet.)
  8. Cook the chicken until it starts to brown, 5 minutes.
  9. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. (I used the oven probe and roasted the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  10. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cut it into 8 pieces and serve.
Note: The chicken can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.

Chicken with Vinegar

I have made this simple and full-flavored dish a couple of times recently. It’s a crowd pleaser in my house.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. According to the article, Jean-Georges Vongerichten learned how to make this recipe from the chef Paul Bocuse, who popularized it at La Mère Brazier in Lyon, France.

I decreased the oven temperature, used shallots in the sauce and scallions as a garnish. I kept all of the drippings to make the sauce and omitted the water and butter in the finished sauce. The extra sauce was wonderful drizzled over roasted potatoes and sautéed greens.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3-pound chicken, cut up for sautéing
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
  • 1 cup good red-wine vinegar (preferably with 5% acidity)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • fresh parsley, thyme, or tarragon for garnish
  • sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; when it is hot, place chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place skillet in the oven. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost done, about 165 degrees (juices will run clear, and there will be just a trace of pink near the bone). Remove chicken to an ovenproof platter. Place it in the oven and turn off the heat, and leave the door slightly ajar; alternatively place in a warming drawer tented with foil.
  4. Place skillet over medium-high heat, and add shallots; sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar, and raise the heat to high. Cook a minute or two, or until the powerful acid smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 cup water if using vinegar with >5% acidity (I omitted the water), and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened.
  6. Stir in butter, if desired.
  7. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, and turn the chicken in the sauce. Garnish with herbs and scallions, as desired. Serve immediately.

Note: Most wine vinegar sold in the United States has an acidity level of 7%; many French vinegars are just 5% acidity. So it’s best to cut strong vinegar with some water.

French Strawberry Cake

A friend shared this wonderful recipe with me knowing that I go strawberry picking every June. I couldn’t wait for my fresh picked berries to make it though. 😉 It was such a crowd pleaser, I will have to make it again with my special berries! It’s a summertime version of French Apple Cake. We ate it for dessert but it would also be fabulous as a coffee cake.

This recipe was adapted from Foodtastic Mom, via The View from the Great Island. I used 3 large eggs instead of jumbo eggs and modified the baking time. The recipe suggests baking the cake in a springform pan or a cast iron skillet. Next time, I’ll have to try the skillet version. Amazing!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  1. Set oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly spray a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with cooking oil spray. (Alternatively, a 10-inch cast iron skillet can be used.)
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
  4. Cream the soft butter with 1 cup of granulated sugar in a stand mixer for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl a couple of times.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla.
  6. Stir the sour cream and buttermilk together, and then add the flour to the mixing bowl alternately with the wet, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until combined, but be careful not to overmix.
  7. Fold in the berries and turn into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Sprinkle the surface of the cake liberally with the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake no longer jiggles in the center and the top is golden and slightly crackled. This cake is meant to be custardy in the center. The exact cooking time will depend on the pan size you use. You can insert a toothpick in the center to test. (I baked mine for 38 minutes in a 9-inch springform pan.) Update: The (also delicious) 10-inch cast iron skillet version made with freshly picked berries baked for 35 minutes. I may even check it slightly earlier next time.
  9. Let cool briefly, and then unlatch the spring and remove the outer ring. I like to run a spreading knife along the edge first to loosen any parts of the cake that are sticking to the pan. If using a skillet, serve the cake right out of the pan.
  10. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Notes:

  • This version uses half sour cream and half buttermilk, but you can use all sour cream, all buttermilk, half and half, full fat yogurt, or full fat milk for this cake.
  • Other berries or fruit can be substituted for the strawberries.

One Year Ago: Berry Breeze and Blueberry Muffin Tops with Streusel Topping

Two Years Ago: Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins with Orange Streusel

Three Years Ago: Dori Sanders’ Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Four Years Ago: Alton Brown’s Berry Muffins

Five Years Ago: Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones

Wild Mushroom Crêpes with Sunny Eggs

When we lived in Chicago, one of our favorite weekend traditions in the winter was going to see a movie and then eating at La Creperie. The restaurant was cozy and warm and the food was delicious. This dish brought us back there. 🙂

This wonderful dinner was also reminiscent of the mushroom crêpes that my Mother-in-Law serves on Christmas Eve as part of a traditional multi-course Ukrainian feast. I loved that this version incorporated roasted wild mushrooms- it made them rich with mushroom flavor. Incorporating an egg made them hearty enough to serve for dinner. (This dish really could be served any meal of the day.)

This recipe was adapted from a Food and Wine “staff favorite” recipe contributed by Twin Cities chef Thomas Boemer. I increased the garlic and modified the proportions and method. We ate them with roasted asparagus on the side. Perfect!

I’m sharing my cozy dish at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #215 this week, co-hosted by Laurena@ Life Diet Health and Alex @Turks Who Eat. Enjoy!
Yield: Serves 6

Make the Sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan (I used a 1.5 quart), melt 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat.
  2. Whisk in all-purpose flour until combined.
  3. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup cream and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup cream, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup of the mushroom filling.
  5. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until no floury taste remains, about 7 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a food processor, blender, or using an immersion blender in the pot, purée until smooth.
  7. Return sauce to pan and season with salt to taste. Keep warm.

Make the Crêpes:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 eggs, milk, bread flour, melted butter, and kosher salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet or crêpe pan over moderate heat; brush with melted butter or oil. (I did 2 pans at once.)
  3. Add about 1/4 cup of the batter, about one-sixth, swirling to coat the pan evenly. Cook until lightly browned on bottom, about 2 minutes.
  4. Using a spatula, flip crêpe; reduce heat to moderately low.
  5. Arrange about one-sixth of the remaining mushroom sauce in a ring on crêpe, about 4 large spoonfuls, and immediately crack 
1 egg in center of ring. Lift the ring and allow the egg white to spread around the crêpe.
  6. Cook until egg white is set and yolk is still runny, about 3 minutes.
  7. Top with a few mesclun leaves. Drizzle with one-sixth of the roasted mushroom filling, mushroom sauce, and garnish with thyme, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a plate.
  8. Repeat procedure to make 5 more crepes. Serve immediately.

One Year Ago: Buckwheat Popovers

Two Years Ago: Pear Clafoutis

Three Years Ago: Vanilla-Bean Sablés and Viennese Sablés

Four Years Ago: Bread Machine Brioche

Five Years Ago: Asparagus Gruyère Tart

Chicken Pot Pie with Drop Biscuit Topping

This chicken pot pie was really elevated by the inclusion of fresh herbs. Even the biscuits had arugula in them. I loved it!

This was our Valentine’s Day dinner. ❤ The recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz. I increased the amount of onions, garlic, peas, and chicken. I also used arugula instead of watercress in the biscuits.

I chose the “Americanized” version of his Chicken Pot Parmentier by using the biscuit topping rather than the potato topping. According to Lebovitz, the fresh tarragon in the filling still makes this dish decidedly French. Fancy comfort food. 🙂

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Chicken Filling:

  • 4 cups (1 quart/1 liter) chicken stock (I used my homemade turkey stock)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 25 peeled pearl onions (I used frozen pearl onions, thawed)
  • 6 T (3 oz/85 g) unsalted butter
  • 6 T (60 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 T dry white wine
  • 4 to 5 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken meat)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas or shelled fava beans, thawed
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp coarse salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the Drop Biscuit Topping:

  • 2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 T (4 oz/115 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup packed (50 g) finely chopped arugula or watercress
  • 1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

To Make the Chicken Filling:

  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan over medium heat with the carrots, celery, and onions. Let simmer until the vegetables are almost tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk a few ladlefuls of the warm stock into the flour mixture, which will appear lumpy at first but will smooth out as you go. Gradually add all the stock, including the vegetables, stirring as you go.
  4. Cook for about 9 minutes, until thickened.
  5. Add the garlic and wine and cook for 1 additional minute.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chicken, peas, tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish. Set the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drippings.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.

To Make the Drop Biscuit Topping:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, pepper, baking soda, and baking powder to combine.
  2. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, combine until the butter is broken into pea-size pieces.
  3. Add the arugula, and then the buttermilk, mixing just until the dough holds together.
  4. Using a spring-loaded cookie scoop, distribute the dough evenly over the chicken filling. (I made 3 rows of 6 biscuits.)

To Finish:

  1. Bake the chicken potpie for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling and hot.

One Year Ago: Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Two Years Ago: Fried Chicken Thighs & Cheesy Grits

Four Years Ago: Fried Chicken Biscuits

Five Years Ago: Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Pork and Popovers

Gâteau de Crêpes

This incredible cake was a truly a Father’s Day tribute. I made it for my husband to celebrate what an amazing dad he is to our kids. ❤ We enjoyed it after spending the day at a gorgeous New York State Park, Planting Fields Arboretum.

Making a crêpe cake was also a memorial to my dad. When I was growing up, my dad made crêpes on Sundays for breakfast and he taught me how to make them. When my family brought me to college in Boston, we went downtown to a beautiful Williams-Sonoma and my dad selected crêpe pans to give me as a “going away to school gift.” I treasure them.

I also built the cake on a special cake plate that once belonged to my French grandparents. ❤

I’ve wanted to make a crêpe cake for quite some time. My food-blog friends Suzanne and Mimi inspired me to finally make this fabulous dessert. Thanks, ladies! 🙂 This recipe is from the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen.com. The original recipe adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. I omitted the Kirsch, made the crepes in advance, and increased the sugar in the filling.

I’m sharing this special dessert at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #178. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 12

For the Crêpe Batter:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For Assembly:

  • vegetable oil, such as canola or corn
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more ( I used 4 T in the cream plus 2 T for brûlée)
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional (if not doing brûlée)

The day before serving, make the crêpe batter and the pastry cream.

To Make the Batter:

  1. In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside.
  2. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter.
  4. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To Make the Pastry Cream:

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
  4. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl.
  6. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

To Make the Crêpes & Assemble the Cake (the next day):

  1. Bring the batter to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil (I used a brush), then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe with your fingers or a thin metal spatula. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds.
  4. Flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes. (I made 22 crêpes.) Note: I tightly wrapped the crêpes in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for several hours before assembling the cake.
  5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more.
  6. Whip the heavy cream with the 1-4 T sugar and the Kirsch, if using. It won’t hold peaks.
  7. Fold it into the pastry cream.
  8. Lay 1 crêpe on a cake plate.
  9. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup).
  10. Cover with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (or 22!), with the best-looking crêpe on top.
  11. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crêpe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

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