3/09/2006

La Tarte: Take Two

The Girl and I were driving south on Lexington when I told her that if there’s a parking space we’re going to stop at the Kitchen Arts and Letters bookstore. She gave out a sigh, clued in that it wasn't likely a place that sold Playmobil, lollipops, or sticker books. She was right. This place sells cookbooks and is one of the reasons New York is such an amazing city. Scanning their shelves, I was drawn to the title When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman and was quickly whisked into her world where “Sundays were gastronomic celebrations, where dinner tables were islands for animated conversations around plates of nuts being cracked and picked by nimble fingers.” I don’t know about you, but I’m there!

The book is full of wild recipes that I can’t imagine I’ll ever make. “Duck with Artichoke Hearts and Hazelnut Sauce”? “Shank of Veal with Masses of Garlic”? I don’t think so. But doesn’t “Rabbit with Shallots and Pickles” sound intriguing? Who has time for that, though, when there's dinner to be made?

The tomatoes had been sitting on the counter for days. Each day they got a little less shiny and their skin began to show it's age. Kamman's writing about butter, how to get ready to cook, and her memories of shopping for cheese with her grandmother began to fortify me and she give me the confidence to confront my problem: La Tarte.

Once again I started with the Pillsbury pie shell, the kind that comes in a box and you unroll. I rolled it out a little thinner and carefully spread an ever-so-thin layer of Dijon mustard on it, then the sliced tomatoes. Slices of rich Gruyere cheese went on top, and then a drizzle of olive oil infused with garlic and basil. I set it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

Not being too much of a gambler I padded the rest of the menu. I marinated some chicken breasts in olive oil, garlic, smashed coriander seeds and lime juice, ready for a quickie on the grill. I used up the rest of the escarole for a salad and put a loaf of Whole Foods frozen baguette in with the tarte. Not only that, the fridge was completely stocked with yoghurt. Nobody was going to be hungry tonight.

The first sign that things were going well was that it smelled really good in the kitchen. The cheese wasn’t oozing out on to the baking sheet this time, which I also thought was positive. After about a half an hour I declared it done, but I let it sit on the sheet a bit to become a little less molten. I think I’ve seen guys do this in pizza shops when a fresh pie comes out.

It was a hit. The Girl had a third slice (really). The Husband said it was good. I knew it was almost there. The tomatoes where nicely smooshy with cheese melted into them. The schmear of mustard had some kick. The crust, at least around the edges was crisp and brown—the center was a bit limp though.

It was definitely edible, dare I say tasty, but not quite ready for guests. Next time I won’t roll the crust any thinner and I might not drizzle the olive oil until it comes out of the oven. I may, even, make my own crust, (but that might be pushing it). Soon I might be ready for "Pigeons on Butter and Prune Pudding."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to make this!
What temp do you put the oven at? I decided (after your post on the first try) to suck up my pride and to ask rather than guess for myself.

Thanks!

Deb St-Claire said...

Chrystele says that she always sets it at 350F for this tarte. If I were you, I'd use either 1) homemade pie crust or 2) that pepperidge farm puff pastry. I had an onion tart at a restaurant recently and it was super, super flaky, and I think this needs to be flaky like that.

Report back how it went and any changes you recommend.

d.