Week 16: The classics

Some questions have arisen among readers with small children regarding how “chez Maureen” manages to keep up with producing new riveting and informative content on a weekly basis. Your incredulity is well-merited. Engaging in any activity requiring more than the average length of naptime, minus time for all the household chores you rush to do as soon as their eyes are closed, of dedicated attention is not compatible with (more-than-)full-time parenting. Let’s face it: toddlers are hard work. No matter how much you deliver, they still want more. No over-time pay and they will never tell you to go home early. (Your best bet if you want to sneak an early happy-hour is to take them swimming. Swimming is the only activity that wears out toddlers more quickly than parents, and can almost guarantee you an on-time, if not early, bedtime. Just in time for a pastis.)

My not-so-secret solution for finding time to cook and write is that mysterious Italian I keep mentioning, Margherita (our babysitter-extraordinaire who comes 4 mornings a week so that I can just barely manage to keep the house in working order). Without her help, there would be no up-to-the-minute accounts on the latest potato shenanigans. Instead there would likely be just two massive sacks of rotten potatoes sitting in our cellar and one bad conscience.

(It’s worth mentioning that I have nothing but immense respect for families with two working-outside-of-the-home parents. I am baffled and amazed by the organizational prowess it must require to manage two careers and a household.)

So with a special thanks to Margherita, without whom none of the following dishes would have made it on to our table:

Gratin dauphinois (the classic French potato side)

Apple pie (the classic American apple dessert)

Kartoffel-Gemüse Auflauf (Potato-vegetable Casserole)

Chutney de pomme (Apple chutney)

Gratin dauphinois (the classic French potato side)

In a previous episode, I prematurely gave the title of “pinnacle of a potato’s career” to the recipe for Tempting potato cake. It’s true that Tempting potato cake is no misnomer and that it pushes the upper echelons of what a potato is capable of. But it’s not Gratin dauphinois. This French recipe will have your guests asking for another helping even if they “really shouldn’t, but…”.

In fact it doesn’t really matter what you serve alongside your gratin, what you serve for dessert, even what wine you offer. This gratin will be the only thing your guests remember. (That is, if you can summon the courage to buy whole milk and cream. If you falter and go for skim milk and nonfat yogurt you’d better head back to the top shelf of the wine aisle and splurge on a better bottle, or two.)

“La recette authentique” is courtesy of Mille et une recettes maison.

Potatoes, 2.5 lbs. (1.2 kg)

Milk, whole, 1-⅔ cup (40 cl)

Cream, full, 1-⅔ cup (40 cl)

Garlic, 1

Butter, 3-½ Tbsp (50 g)

Nutmeg

Salt + pepper

  1. Peel but do not wash the potatoes. (Seriously. Just like the French secret to beautiful skin is to never use soap, the secret to a beautiful gratin is to not wash the potatoes.)
  2. Cut the potatoes into 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Place the slices on a kitchen cloth to dry.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the potato slices with salt, pepper, and (if you have it) freshly ground nutmeg. (Or maybe nutmeg is really the secret…)
  1. Then, place the potatoes into a pan. Add the milk and cream. Cook covered over low heat for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 410°F (210°C). Prepare a casserole dish by rubbing it with the garlic clove while muttering ominous French phrases (any that come to mind will do). Then butter the dish.
  3. Carefully remove the cooked potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon. Place them into the casserole dish, pour the cooked milk-cream on top.
  1. Cover with small pieces of butter. You can also sprinkle on some shredded Emmental cheese. If you don’t have any, rather skip the cheese than compromise the integrity of the gratin by substituting with a lesser cheese.
  1. Bake 20 minutes.
  1. Serve straight from the casserole dish. The burnt edges and overflowed milk spills will add that needed touch of French authenticity, especially necessary if you have no idea how to say “gratin dauphinois”.

Gratin dauphinois

It doesn’t really matter what you serve alongside your gratin, what you serve for dessert, even what wine you offer. This gratin will be the only thing your guests remember. (That is, if you can summon the courage to buy whole milk and cream. If you falter and go for skim milk and nonfat yogurt you’d better head back to the top shelf of the wine aisle and splurge on a better bottle, or two.) “La recette authentique” is courtesy of the cookbook “Mille et une recettes maison”.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Potatoes 2.5 lbs. (1.2 kg)
  • Milk whole, 1-⅔ cup (40 cl)
  • Cream full, 1-⅔ cup (40 cl)
  • Garlic 1
  • Butter 3-½ Tbsp (50 g)
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt + pepper

Instructions

  • Peel but do not wash the potatoes.
  • Cut the potatoes into 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Place the slices on a kitchen cloth to dry.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the potato slices with salt, pepper, and (if you have it) freshly ground nutmeg.
  • Then, place the potatoes into a pan. Add the milk and cream. Cook covered over low heat for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 410°F (210°C). Prepare a casserole dish by rubbing it with the garlic clove while muttering ominous French phrases (any that come to mind will do). Then butter the dish.
  • Carefully remove the cooked potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon. Place them into the casserole dish, pour the cooked milk-cream on top.
  • Cover with small pieces of butter. You can also sprinkle on some shredded Emmental cheese. If you don’t have any, rather skip the cheese than compromise the integrity of the gratin by substituting with a lesser cheese.
  • Bake 20 minutes.
  • Serve straight from the casserole dish.

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Apple pie (the classic American apple dessert)

I was astonished to realize that I had made it four months into our apple surplus and still hadn’t baked a single apple pie. Esoteric questions about my true nationality swirling through my head, I set out to right this atrocious wrong.

Apropos, now that the supplies are dwindling (at last count, 6 potatoes—read that again, 6. Not kilos, not lbs, 6 lonely spuds awaiting their destiny. Apples? Still too many to bother counting but I estimate about 60), I’ve begun to do a bit of culinary soul-searching. What will the final potato dish be? Where will my last apple end up? How does the story end?…

Filled with melo-dramatic suspense from that philosophical interlude, we return to apple pie. I knew it had to be a great recipe, one that brings cultures together, reminds European readers that there is still something good coming out of the U.S. these days. And when I need a great recipe I almost always go to the same place: Simplyrecipes.com. I have to say that Ms. Bauer knows her stuff. On more than one occasion her recipes have earned me Michelin-star status. If I ever claim that some recipe is a “family secret”, chances are pretty good I mean the Bauer family.

Without further ado, a classic apple pie (amended and adapted to our kitchen):

Pie crust: (a ready-made pie crust is of course a wonderful, time-saving commodity that should not be under-valued. Nonetheless, this crust is pretty amazing and well-worth the effort.)

Flour, 2-½ cup (285 g)

Butter, unsalted, at room temperature, 1-¼ cup (285 g)

Salt, 1 tsp.

Sugar, 2 tsp.

Sour cream or crème fraiche, ½ cup (115 ml) (for best results, Ms. Bauer says to go full-fat)

  1. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter, cut into small chunks. Begin to work the butter into the flour with your hands. The goal is for it to look like large breadcrumbs. My butter was a bit on the somewhat-warmer-than room temperature side so it was difficult to get it smaller than crumbled cookie size. Breadcrumbs or loss of patience, whichever comes first.
  3. Make a small well in the center of the bowl and add the sour cream. Use a fork to work the sour cream in to the flour mixture until the dough starts to come together.
  1. Divide it in half and form two thick disks. Dust the disks with flour and refrigerate covered for at least 1 hour.

In the meantime, Filling:

Apples, 3 lbs, (1.5 kg) (if you want to win hearts over, you can’t go wrong with Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. We’re still stuck with Normand organic.)

Lemon juice, 1 Tbsp

Sugar, ½ cup (100 g)

Flour, 3 Tbsp

Spices, 1 tsp combined of allspice, nutmeg and/or cinnamon

Calvados, 1 Tbsp (That bottle you bought when you started cooking from chez-Maureen.com is really paying itself off!)

Vanilla extract, 1 tsp

  1. Peel, core and slice the apples into ½ in. (1 cm) slices.
  2. Place the slices into a large bowl, sprinkling them with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
  3. Mix together the flour, sugar and spices and add to the apple slices. Stir.
  4. Add in the Calvados and vanilla.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. On a floured surface, roll out one of the crust disks into a large circle, approx. 12 inches in diameter.
  3. Place the circle into a 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Mound the apples into the pan.
  5. Roll out the second disk, same as the first. Do your very best to gently lay the crust on top of the apple mound. Trim off the excess dough and then press the two crusts together around the edges.
  6. Combine one egg yolk with 1 Tbsp cream. Brush onto the top of the crust. Use a sharp knife to make small slits in the crust.
  1. Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F (190°C). Then lower the heat to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Continue baking until the crust is golden and you can see the juicy apples bubbling inside the pie. This will take at least 45 minutes. I took mine out at about 1-1/2 hours, but start checking from the 45 minute or 1 hour mark. If the golden crust starts to turn brown, place a large piece of aluminum foil over the pie.
  3. Cool the pie for 1 hour before serving warm with vanilla ice cream of course!

Apple pie

A classic apple pie (amended and adapted to our kitchen)
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Flour 2-½ cup (285 g)
  • Butter unsalted, at room temperature, 1-¼ cup (285 g)
  • Salt 1 tsp.
  • Sugar 2 tsp.
  • Sour cream or crème fraiche ½ cup (115 ml), see Note below
  • Apples 3 lbs, (1.5 kg), see Note below
  • Lemon juice 1 Tbsp
  • Sugar ½ cup (100 g)
  • Flour 3 Tbsp
  • Spices 1 tsp combined of allspice, nutmeg and/or cinnamon
  • Calvados 1 Tbsp
  • Vanilla extract 1 tsp

Instructions

Pie crust: (see Note below)

  • Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  • Add the butter, cut into small chunks. Begin to work the butter into the flour with your hands. The goal is for it to look like large breadcrumbs.
  • Make a small well in the center of the bowl and add the sour cream. Use a fork to work the sour cream in to the flour mixture until the dough starts to come together.
  • Divide it in half and form two thick disks. Dust the disks with flour and refrigerate covered for at least 1 hour.

In the meantime, Filling:

  • Peel, core and slice the apples into ½ in. (1 cm) slices.
  • Place the slices into a large bowl, sprinkling them with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Mix together the flour, sugar and spices and add to the apple slices. Stir.
  • Add in the Calvados and vanilla.

Assembly:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • On a floured surface, roll out one of the crust disks into a large circle, approx. 12 inches in diameter.
  • Place the circle into a 9-inch pie pan.
  • Mound the apples into the pan.
  • Roll out the second disk, same as the first. Do your very best to gently lay the crust on top of the apple mound. Trim off the excess dough and then press the two crusts together around the edges.
  • Combine one egg yolk with 1 Tbsp cream. Brush onto the top of the crust. Use a sharp knife to make small slits in the crust.

Baking:

  • Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F (190°C). Then lower the heat to 350°F (175°C).
  • Continue baking until the crust is golden and you can see the juicy apples bubbling inside the pie. This will take at least 45 minutes. I took mine out at about 1-1/2 hours, but start checking from the 45 minute or 1 hour mark. If the golden crust starts to turn brown, place a large piece of aluminum foil over the pie.
  • Cool the pie for 1 hour before serving warm with vanilla ice cream of course!

Notes

Pie crust: A ready-made pie crust is of course a wonderful, time-saving commodity that should not be under-valued. Nonetheless, this crust is pretty amazing and well-worth the effort.
Sour cream, crème fraîche: For best results, use full-fat.
Apples: If you want to win hearts over, you can’t go wrong with Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. We’re still stuck with Normand organic.

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The countdown continues with:

KARTOFFEL-GEMÜSE AUFLAUF (POTATO-VEGETABLE CASSEROLE)

CHUTNEY DE POMME (APPLE CHUTNEY)

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