We went to the coolest dinner party ever this weekend. Seriously. And I’m kind of joking about the “pot luck” reference – no one in their right mind would ever refer to this caliber of dining experience with the same term used for tables full of casseroles and no-bake Cool Whip pies. However, it was a French-themed dinner and each of the guests was responsible for bringing an assigned course with appropriately paired wine. We provided dessert:
Apple Tarte Tatin…a really classic rustic French dessert. With kind of an interesting story.
There were six couples at this lovely evening and the table was beautifully appointed and located on a courtyard deck that was fantastic…so fantastic we didn’t even really mind the occasional bug who happened to be lucky enough to cross one of our plates. So here’s the menu:
A potato and leek soup, garnished with cream and parsley that was so good I could seriously eat it every single day with not one complaint. YUM.
The vegetable course was Mediterranean-inspired leeks with tomatoes and olives.
Oh…this next course. I’m still dreaming of this course. Seared foie gras on an herbed beignet with macerated white grapes. Best. Bite. Ever. And no wine with this course – a seriously crafted beer – a surprise and delightful. (This from a girl who doesn’t even like the way beer smells.)
Palate cleanser: melon in a tarragon honey milk. Sublime.
The main course was a deconstructed beef Bourguignon which included one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of tenderloin I’ve ever had. If I’d had a butter knife, I could have used it. My oh my. Keeping that beef and sauce company were carrots and green beans and potatoes in the spirit of deconstuction…delicious in their own right.
How can you not love a culture with an entire course devoted to cheese? I, for one, do not know. There was a plate with baguette slices, apple slices, grapes and four types of cheese. I can’t tell you anything about three of the cheeses, although I do remember enjoying them…the triple cream brie completely stole the show for me. I could swim in it.
Dessert was ours. A slice of apple tarte tatin with a cran-raspberry sauce and fresh cream. Paired with a chilled Sauternes.
I think we were eating off and on for about 3 hours. Maybe 4. And, surprisingly, I wasn’t really as stuffed as I expected to be…I think all the breaks between courses helped. And the laughing. What a super fun group of people. It was really one of my favorite nights since we’ve moved back to Texas.
Oh, right, the recipe. Here you go:
an adaptation of two recipes from Guichard and Robuchon
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used organic Golden Delicious and Fuji…and did not use all five pounds)
Flaky pastry recipe (follows)
Creme fraiche or whipped cream
Berry sauce of your choice (I would include my version of cran-raspberry sauce with this recipe, but I totally made it up as I was going along and have no idea what was finally included! You just need a little bit of sour to contrast the sweet.)
Spread the sugar evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Scatter the butter over the sugar and drizzle with the vanilla. Arrange the apple slices in circles around the skillet – remember that the bottom layer will become the top of the tarte.
Set the skillet over moderately low heat and cook the apples until the surrounding syrup becomes thick and golden brown. (45 minutes to an hour) Baste the apples regularly with a bulb baster. The liquid should remain at a gentle bubble.
Preheat the oven to 425. Set the skillet on a baking sheet and bake the apples for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Set the pastry on top of the apples and carefully push the edge down inside the skillet all the way around. Return the skillet to the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the juices are bubbling.
Remove tarte from oven and when the bubbling stops immediately invert onto a platter (one with a little lip is safest in case some of the caramel runs out.) If any of the apples stick to the skillet, just remove them and place them on the tarte – as it cools the caramel will become stickier and hold them together. Serve warm or at room temperature with berry sauce and creme fraiche.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (4oz) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons ice water
Blend the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process until blended (about 8 seconds.) Add the water and process until absorbed and the mixture looks like wet sand. Transfer pastry to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour. Roll pastry out into an 11-inch round and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
This whole dinner party experience has me thinking about other possible dinner party ideas. One of the very first conversations we had when we arrived was about doing a party of “kid food.” Imagine amped up mac and cheese and hot dogs on brioche…maybe we should spend some more time on this idea, it sounds like fun!