Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Ode to Lutèce
My favorite current show, Mad Men, had its season three premiere last Sunday and the hubby and I hosted a party for our friends to come watch it.
I'd spent a good week watching every episode of season two on blu-ray and exploring the set's special features, one of which is a delightful clip of the great André Soltner, chef and later owner of the much-vaunted restaurant, Lutèce, creating his famous tarte aux pommes à l'Alsacienne.
He is quite charming in the clip - when asked by an off-camera person, "What do you do [for a living]?," he answers, "Today, I am eating!"
The clip moves back and forth between cooking instructions and the story of how Soltner came to be a chef, then immigrated to America where he first worked at Lutèce and later owned it until 1994 (it later closed in 2004). The video is by no means an exhaustive study of a brilliant chef, but it serves its purpose: After carefully watching the clip three times (unfortunately, the blu-ray disc was programmed so that it was not possible to pause, rewind or fast-forward within the special features), I gleaned just about all the information I needed to replicate the tarte.
(One all-important ingredient for the dish's flan, the heavy cream, is mentioned in the clip, but not the quantity needed. This I gathered from a page of Soltner's cookbook that flashes across the opening screen of the time capsule special feature.)
The characters in Mad Men dine often at Lutèce in season two; it is also the location of the infamous encounter between Don Draper and Bobbi Barrett in the women's restroom.
So it's French, it's Mad Men, and I can't resist two things I love together. I made the tarte, it was fabulous, and I can't wait to make it again when golden delicious apples are actually in season!
Tarte aux pommes à l'Alsacienne
Part One: Pâte brisée (crust)
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into little pieces (keep very cold)
1 large egg
Mix the flour, salt, sugar & butter with your hands until well-blended. Break the egg into the mixture and combine with wooden spoon.
Remove from bowl and form into flat, rounded piece of dough (on floured board). Allow to rest in refrigerator for at least one hour, wrapped in plastic.
Part Two: Constructing the tarte
Preheat oven: 365° (between 350° and 375°, depending on your oven.)
3-4 large apples (preferred: golden delicious)
almond flour (optional)
Peel apples, quarter and remove core. Cut each apple quarter into quarters again. If using a not-so-sweet variety of apples, toss with a little sugar before putting into tarte.
Roll out pâte brisée on floured board to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Press into moule, running rolling pin over top to get rid of excess dough.
If apples are very juicy (not usually so with golden delicious), sprinkle a light layer of almond flour in bottom of moule before layering apples.
Layer apple slices in concentric circles from outside to middle of moule. Bake on center rack for 15-20 minutes or until apples become soft (test with blade of sharp paring knife).
Part Three: Flan
1/2 cup sugar
2 small/1 large egg
drop of vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
Whisk together sugar and eggs until sugar is completely dissolved, then whisk in vanilla and heavy cream.
Once apples have softened, pour flan over top of tarte and bake another 20-25 minutes, until flan is firm and lightly browned. Serve at room temperature (French vanilla ice cream makes a wonderful accompaniment!).
Photo: Tarte maison. Copyright MLG.