No food processors were dirtied in the making of this tart

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The tomato tart will replace our usual weekly quiche this summer.  Because tomatoes are so good right now?  Yes. But, also because my family has asked for a break from quiche for a while.  I came home the other night to find them picketing in the driveway  and chanting, “Hear us roar, real men don’t eat quiche, anymore”.  Fine, I’ll make a tart.

Like our current tween set who think they have discovered things like Journey, the Rubik’s cube and Pac-Man, I have made a discovery of my own. I have created a one bowl tart/quiche crust that works even better than the food processor method. Having never been completely successful in turning out a crust with sheets of thin, crispy, buttery, and flaky layers, the solution  came to me as I stood over the sink washing the food processor bowl.  No matter how cool my ingredients were when they started out, the quick spin in the food processor was melting the butter.

Speaking in absolutes is never a good idea.  But, there are a few exceptions, like we can never be too rich, too thin or too close to the end of the GYN table, (scootch, scootch). It took me awhile to figure out  that the crust ingredients can never be too cold.  I’ve watched enough Food Network to know that the thin, buttery layers in a crust are created from the steam that is formed when the cold pieces of butter melt causing the layers of dough to puff up.   Starting with frozen butter, grating it quickly on the big holes of a box grater and mixing by hand was my solution and the result was exactly what I had hoped for.  Can you see the layers?

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It was a hit all around.    Apparently, real men do eat tarts.

P.S.  I can’t take credit for the idea that you can never be too close to the end of the GYN table.   That gem came from my sister!

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Tomato Tart 

1 recipe for Andra’s new and improved crust recipe

1 head of garlic

2 large tomatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

8 oz. of buffalo or fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds

1/4 cup fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°.  Cut off the narrow end of the head of garlic.  Wrap it in foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from the oven and let it sit in the foil until it is cool enough to handle.  Lower the oven temperature to 400°.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8” thick and place into a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it around the corners and removing any overhang.  Place the crust into the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s papery skin and spread with an offset spatula onto the base of the chilled crust.   Sprinkle with half of the parmesan cheese and then lay tomatoes over the crust so that they are not overlapping.  Lay slices of mozzarella over the tomatoes and then sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tart and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown slightly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Top with fresh basil and serve.

Andra’s New and Improved Crust

1 stick of butter

1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of ice water

Place a stick of butter and a glass of ice water in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Grate the butter into the dry ingredients, sprinkle the iced water into the bowl and then quickly work to combine everything just until it holds together in a ball.  You should still see pieces of butter in the dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for up to two months.

Breakfast for Dinner

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Last night, we ate my kid’s favorite dinner, which is not dinner at all.  Breakfast for dinner is very popular in our house, especially after discovering Cook’s Illustrated’s Challah French Toast recipe a few years ago.  You know how when you go to a great brunch place on the weekends and order a mimosa and a specialty French Toast with some sort of amped up, fruit-laden syrup and it tastes so much better than any French Toast you could ever make at home?  Well, we don’t do that anymore.  This French Toast recipe is so good that I think any starchy pancake or French Toast order while out at brunch (or a diner in New Jersey) is a waste of a someone-else-is-cooking experience.  Better to let someone else do the really complicated stuff, like eggs Benedict, while we’re out.

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Breakfast for Dinner at our house is usually Challah French Toast, bacon and yogurt parfaits, made by layering yogurt, any berries we have on hand and granola.  My oldest daughter said last night, “We’ve been eating lots of healthy things, so we deserve a treat.”  She’s four.  Then my husband called and said he was leaving his office “shortly”.  I reminded him that last night was Breakfast for Dinner night and he came home immediately.  He’s not four.

Cook’s Illustrated Challah French Toast, from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition

Though thick-sliced challah is best for French toast, you can substitute high-quality, presliced sandwich bread. Flipping challah is easiest with tongs, but a spatula works best with sandwich bread…To vary the flavor of the batter, add ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon or ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg with the dry ingredients, or substitute almond extract for the vanilla.  (Note:  I’ve doubled the recipe.  This comfortably feeds four for dinner.)

2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8-10 slices day-old challah, ¾ inch thick,
or 12-16 slices day-old high-quality sandwich bread
Unsalted butter for frying
(1 tablespoon per batch)

Heat a 10- or 12- inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs lightly in a shallow pan or pie plate; whisk in the melted butter, then the milk and vanilla, and finally the sugar, flour and salt, continuing to whisk until smooth. Soak the bread without over saturating, about 40 seconds per side for challah or 30 seconds per side for sandwich bread. Pick up the bread and allow the excess batter to drip off; repeat with the remaining slices.

Swirl 1 tablespoon butter in the hot skillet. Transfer the prepared bread to the skillet in a single layer; cook until golden brown, about 1 minute 45 seconds on the first side and 1 minute on the second. Serve the French toast immediately. Continue, adding 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet for each new batch.

Happy Pi Day!

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Oh happy day!  A day devoted to eating pie.  I had another post written about today but it started to sound irrational and went on for what seemed infinity.  Instead of that post, I will leave you with this incredibly easy and more incredibly delicious recipe for a fudge pie.  You might have the ingredients in your pantry and fridge right now and could be eating pie in as little as 3.14 hours.

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We also had a quiche which may not technically be a pie but it is round and round works with Pi.  Happy Pi day everyone!

-Andra

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Fudge Pie 

4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

2 sticks of unsalted butter

4 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons of vanilla

Deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate and let cool.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the  flour, sugar, salt and vanilla to the beaten eggs.  Add the butter and chocolate mixture and stir until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into the pieshell (no need to pre-bake) and bake for 45 minutes.   The middle may still be jiggly but it is done.  Let cool for an hour and then serve.  This is even better when made the day before.  Serve with whipped cream or Bluebell homestyle vanilla ice-cream.

 

All The Single Ladies

How about that Puppy Bowl?  I know most of you watched another Bowl game last night, but my husband was out of town, so we didn’t have to watch football.  We watched the annual Puppy Bowl (“Can we get one?”) and ate game day food.  Individual pizzas and chocolate molten cakes for everyone!

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I put toppings out for the girls and let them build their own pizzas, which were sadly lacking in creativity.  (Note:  we weren’t all topless, only those of us still in diapers.)

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Mine was a garlic oil, Herbs de Provence, goat cheese, parmesan cheese and caramelized onion masterpiece.  Surprisingly, my girls didn’t bother me for a slice.

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Like most of the country, we stood around the bar and ate.

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For dessert, I made classic chocolate molten cakes, using the Kraft recipe that never disappoints.  With a little bit of vanilla ice cream, it’s the perfect dessert to accompany the “Why We Don’t Have a Dog” conversation.

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I hope your Bowl Game food was as good.  The only thing missing for us were those commercials, but the puppies made up for it with their cuteness.

– Catherine

Chicken Pot Pie Two Ways

This week was just cold and rainy enough for chicken pot pie.  Because this recipe makes so much, I’ll usually freeze half of the mixture for another time.  But this week, instead of freezing half, we ate it two nights in a row (with a few lunches thrown in).  So, we’re probably good for chicken pot pie for a while.

I’ve adapted an Ina recipe for the pot pie, using store-bought pie crust (shudder) for the topping for Dinner #1 and herb biscuits for the topping for Dinner #2.

Once the chicken and vegetable mixture was ready, I placed my ramekins on the pie crust to cut out the pieces for the top.  This is MUCH easier to do when the ramekins are empty.  Trust me.

Then I filled them with the chicken mixture,

brushed the tops with egg wash and cut slits for steam to escape,

and then baked them until they were bubbly.

For the second night, I made Cook’s Illustrated’s cream biscuit recipe for the topping (I added fresh chives).

The end result was tweaked just enough to convince us that we weren’t just reheating leftovers, but eating something new.  And the chive biscuits give you the perfect portion size.

One thing about chicken pot pie hasn’t changed.  NO ONE waits for it to cool down to eat it.  It was delicious, but I think we all have second degree burns in our mouths.

– Catherine

Chicken Pot Pie (Adapted from Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie)

– 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

– 4 cups chicken stock

– 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

– 2 yellow onions, chopped

– 1 leek, white and pale green parts, diced

– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

– 1/4 cup heavy cream

– 2 cups medium-diced carrots

– 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)

– 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions

– 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Roast the chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper until cooked through.  Dice into bite size pieces when cool enough to handle.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the onions and the leek until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock to the sauce heat until it reaches a simmer and begins to thicken.  Do not boil.  Add  about one teaspoon salt, pepper, and the heavy cream followed by the chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

Divide the filling into ovenproof ramekins of any size.  Place pieces of pie crust on top and seal with egg wash, followed by more egg wash on top.  Cut slits in each pot pie for steam to escape and place on a baking sheet.   Bake at 375° for 45 minutes -1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

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