Week 2 : Riding the wave

One week down and the mound of potatoes, apples and carrots looks precisely as intimidating as it did last week.  To compensate, my first draft of a meal plan for this week was admittedly a bit heavy on starch. By Wednesday afternoon, his sixth consecutive plate of spuds glaring up at him, our sweet, easy-going, eats-everything Noah started to complain.  Looking the tuber dressed in cream and bacon straight in the eye, he threw his fork down in protest.

Then he laughed, because throwing cutlery on the ground is, for eighteen-month-olds the globe over, the pinnacle of great humor. And finished his plate. But his point was taken. Thursday we took a potato, apple, carrot holiday. It seems best we start to pace ourselves –it’s a long, starchy road ahead…

In related news, on the advice of Uncle Tim, we’ve enlisted the service of a small pony. Thanks Uncle Tim, we’re hoping he’ll stick around.

This week on the menu:

Tartiflette (Tubers dressed in cream and bacon)

Versunkener apfelkuchen (Sunken apple cake)

Rosemary-roasted Potatoes

Tuna croquettes

Tartiflette

What follows is a very important lesson in French cuisine: do not under-estimate the power of cream and bacon.

Try it for yourself. The next time you are faced with relatively-bland, arguably-nutritious, overall-pretty-unexciting vegetables, turn them into a delicious and questionably-nutritious main dish with these easy two steps: add cream, then bacon. For variety, add bacon, then cream.

The following recipe is the French version of a dish that is surely enjoyed in many potato-producing corners of the world under many names. It can be infinitely adapted based on what is on hand.  I would go so far as to suggest that even the potatoes are optional, though not chez Maureen.

My recipe is adapted from the more authentic version in the cookbook Mille et une recettes maison.

Potatoes, 2.2 lbs (1 kg) (I took the time to weigh out the potatoes, for your sake. This is about 5-6 reasonably large ones.)

Cheese, the recipe calls for “Reblochon” if you’re aiming for authenticity. If you don’t have any and the concept of a quick dash to the supermarket to pick some up has been replaced by the smiling cherub faces looking up from around your ankles, any shredded cheese will do.

Onions, 2, peeled and chopped

Bacon, 5 oz. (30 g), chopped into pieces resembling thin Legos

Butter, 5 Tbsp. (70 g)

Cream (Whipping cream, sour cream, coffee cream, but again no, not skim milk)

Salt, pepper

  1. Cook the potatoes for what seems like an eternity but is probably somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain, peel and cut into slices.
  2. Heat 3 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and let them cook 5-6 minutes over low heat. Remove them and give to the toddler to hold. Add bacon Legos. Cook 2-3 minutes without browning. Remove and give to the other toddler to hold. Add the potato slices. Cook just until they start to brown. (I didn’t really get to that stage, plus the toddlers started complaining about hot hands, so I just moved the potatoes around a bit and onto the next step…)
  3. Mix back in the onions and bacon. Salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425° F (210°C).
  5. Butter a baking dish. Layer it with half the potato-onion-bacon mix and half the slices of Reblochon or shredded cheese. Pour some cream on top. Repeat.
  6. Bake 15 minutes. Serve hot or at whatever temperature it is by the time you’ve gathered everyone to sit down to eat. A side salad as accompaniment may ease your conscience.

Tartiflette

What follows is a very important lesson in French cuisine: do not under-estimate the power of cream and bacon.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Potatoes 2.2 lbs (1 kg) (This is about 5-6 reasonably large ones.)
  • Cheese Reblochon, if you’re aiming for authenticity.
  • Onions 2, peeled and chopped
  • Bacon 5 oz. (30 g), chopped
  • Butter 5 Tbsp. (70 g)
  • Cream Whipping cream, sour cream, coffee cream, but again no, not skim milk
  • Salt pepper

Instructions

  • Cook the potatoes for what seems like an eternity but is probably somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain, peel and cut into slices.
  • Heat 3 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and let them cook 5-6 minutes over low heat.
  • Add bacon. Cook 2-3 minutes without browning.
  • Add the potato slices. Cook just until they start to brown.
  • Mix back in the onions and bacon. Salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 425° F (210°C).
  • Butter a baking dish. Layer it with half the potato-onion-bacon mix and half the slices of Reblochon or shredded cheese. Pour some cream on top. Repeat.
  • Bake 15 minutes. Serve hot or at whatever temperature it is by the time you’ve gathered everyone to sit down to eat.
  • A side salad as accompaniment may ease your conscience.

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Versunkener apfelkuchen (Sunken apple cake)

This recipe is from Jan’s middle school cooking notebook. I suspect that it is his adolescent scribbled handwriting that routinely fools me into thinking this would be a fun activity with the children. You must resist.

30 seconds in: Franziska starts complaining that the mixer is too loud. Noah is drinking vanilla extract straight from the bottle.

2 minutes in: Franziska has poured some completely undeterminable portion of the meticulously measured 125 grams of sugar onto the ground. Noah is experimenting with the apple peeler and his tongue.

By now the beautiful, German-equivalent of Betty Crocker baking moment has been replaced by near-apocalyptic scenes of flour-dusted toddlers being chased from the kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support children helping to bake in the kitchen. However, I believe, as a matter of principle, that it’s a job best left for when eager, unsuspecting grandparents are over, or better yet, at said grandparent’s house.

If it’s 10 am and you have nowhere to be and nothing to do before, let’s say, 8 pm? Go right ahead. However, anything less than 4 hours and you’d like to emerge with your sanity intact?—you’ve been warned!

Here’s the original recipe.  The remarkable thing about this recipe is that it is completely imprecise. It’s basically written the way I cook, which somehow just doesn’t seem very German.

That is:

Butter or margarine, 7-9 Tbsp (100-125 g) (depending on your lastest cholesterol reading)

Sugar, 4.4 oz (125 g) (kitchen scale out of reach? That’s just over ½ cup.)

Eggs, 2-3 (Did they design this recipe for toddlers? Aim for 3, if one drops along the way, scrap up what you can, pick out the crumbs from yesterday’s dinner and call it even.)

Salt, just over a pinch

Flour, 7 oz  (200 g) = just over 1-½ cups (the recipe makes just over 1 sunken apple cake)

Baking powder, 2 tsp

_____, 1-4 Tbsp (Jan was always a very careful and attentive student. Until it came to the last ingredient. But thanks to a popular German children’s song about cake baking and some inductive reasoning that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, we solved the case of the mystery ingredient. Can you? Hint: it starts with m- and ends with –ilk.)

  1. Beat the fat of choice until “foamy”.
  2. Add bit by bit whatever sugar is salvageable from the floor and as many eggs as the hen lay this morning, one at a time.
  3. Mix, sift and stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. (We didn’t even attempt to sift: mess potential far outweighing whatever advantage sifted flour has.)
  4. Add your desired quantity of milk if the batter is too thick.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased pan. Smooth.

Topping:

Apples, 2-3, washed, peeled (required), quartered

  1. Make multiple small incisions lengthwise on the outside of the quartered apple. Place quarters onto batter.

Baking:

  1. Bake 35-40 minutes at 400° (200°C). (The actual recipe even gives a recommended temperature range of 400-430°, depending on how many logs you’ve thrown in the old wood-burning oven?)
  2. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Versunkener apfelkuchen (Sunken apple cake)

Here’s the original recipe.  The remarkable thing about this recipe is that it is completely imprecise. It’s basically written the way I cook, which somehow just doesn’t seem very German.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Butter or margarine 7-9 Tbsp (100-125 g)
  • Sugar 4.4 oz (125 g) (That’s just over ½ cup.)
  • Eggs 2-3
  • Salt just over a pinch
  • Flour 7 oz (200 g) = just over 1-½ cups
  • Baking powder 2 tsp
  • Milk 1-4 Tbsp
  • Apples 2-3, washed, peeled (required), quartered

Instructions

  • Beat the fat of choice until “foamy”.
  • Add bit by bit whatever sugar is salvageable from the floor and as many eggs as the hen lay this morning, one at a time.
  • Mix, sift and stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add your desired quantity of milk if the batter is too thick.
  • Pour the batter into a greased pan. Smooth.
  • Make multiple small incisions lengthwise on the outside of the quartered apple. Place quarters onto batter.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes at 400° (200°C). (The actual recipe even gives a recommended temperature range of 400-430°, depending on how many logs you’ve thrown in the old wood-burning oven?)
  • When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.


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Coming soon…

Rosemary-roasted Potatoes

Tuna croquettes

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