Prime Rib Roast Beef with Jus

January 16, 2015

I made this recipe for a very special prime rib dinner with my two sons. This is only the second time I’ve every made Prime Rib; the first time was two years ago and only 3-stars, based upon flaws in the recipe. Today’s recipe made a delicious jus, which added great flavor to every bite of this incredible tender roast. Next time I might incorporate a bit of the herb crust from the first recipe; but the jus is an absolute necessity. The results were excellent; 4-1/2 stars. An incredibly special meal.

Perfect medium (My family won't eat medium-rare)

Perfect medium (My family won’t eat medium-rare)

DRY-AGING BEEF AT HOME:
While a was able to buy my smallish, first-cut rib roast on sale for just $40, a roast that size typically sells for double that price. And to make matters even more expensive, I love dry-aged beef for its concentrated flavor and extra tenderness. But dry-aged beef is only available from the butcher (and would have cost over $100). So for a few years, I’ve been “dry-aging” my  beef at home; only on expensive cuts of beef, and only when the recipe’s tenderness requires leaving the beef pink. I explain the steps below in the instructions, but more or less you wrap it in cheese cloth and leave it to dry on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for a week. I’m not sure why, but Chris Kimball has taken down this dry-aging technique from his website.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that dry-aging adds $3/lb, but the reality is that dry-aged beef is only available from butcher (who generally sells meat more expensively than my supermarket). For thicker roasts, there is a difference between the 21-day dry-aging that a butcher does, and the 7-day aging that we are capable of with our residential refrigerators. But still, it is worth the minimal amount of effort.
  2. As I mentioned above, the roast was delicious, but I think if I applied a bit of the herb mixture the roast would have been 5-stars. But, there is no need to apply herb-mixture to the fat cap.
  3. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5-1/2 hours before dinner.
  4. Typically a first-cut beef rib roast (ribs 9 through 12) will weigh about 8-pounds. I was able to buy a smaller roast of 5-pounds, because we were only three people eating dinner. While I generally love eating leftovers, reheating prime rib loses a lot for the perfect tenderness.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $45.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start 5-1/2 hours before dinner.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 first-cut beef rib roast
1-1/2 pounds oxtails
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt (preferably) or table salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, medium-bodied, such as Côtes du Rhône
1-3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1-3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Dry-Age Beef a week before dinner:

  1. About a week before dinner, remove the roast from packaging, rinse well, and pat completely dry with paper towels.  Wrap the meat with three layers of cheesecloth, Place on wire rack with the fat side up; set over a sheet pan and place in the back of refrigerator (the coldest part). After 24 hours, remove, unwrap, discard cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Place back in refrigerator for up to 6 days undisturbed.

Day of Dinner:

  1. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5-1/2 hours before serving. Remove cheesecloth, cut away the fat and trim the ends and any discolored parts of roast.  Allow roast to sit a room temperature for 2 hours for more even cooking.
  2. After 1 hour, set a rack to the lowest position in your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees. Rub the oxtails with tomato paste and add to roasting pan. Cut your onions into eighths and toss in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to cover your onions. Roast ox tails/onions for 45 minutes until the are browned; flipping oxtails half-way through cooking. Remove pan and set aside.
  3.  Reduce over temperature to just 250-degrees.
  4. After roast has stood for 2 hours, pre-heat a 12″-skillet for 4 minutes over medium burner. While the skillet pre-heats, rub the ends and fat-side of the roast with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of ground pepper.
  5. Put roast in skillet with the fat-cap down for 12 to 15 minutes; until the roast is well browned. Use tongs to stand the roast on each cut-side; browning each side for 4 minutes. (Do not brown the rib-side). Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Use 3 or 4 lengths of kitchen twine to tie the roast back to the ribs.
  7. Push the oxtails and onions to the sides of the roasting pan, and set roast with the bone-side down. Roast for 1 hour; check the internal temperature to ensure that it is 70-degrees (adjust the oven temperature up or down depending upon the internal temperate of the roast).
  8. Continue roasting for another 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours. The roast will be rare when the center of meat registers about 122 degrees; 130 degrees for medium-rare. I cooked my roast to a kid-friendly 135-degrees.  Remove the roast and set on a cutting board; tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  9. While the roast rests, spoon off fat from roasting pan. Set roasting pan over 2 burners on your stovetop. Add wine to pan and use the liquid to de-glaze the pan; reduce by half for 3 minutes. Add beef broth, chicken broth, and thyme. Cut twine on the beef; remove ribs, and re-tend roast. Add the ribs with the meaty-side down to the roasting pan. Continue to cook for 16 to 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to 2 cups.
  10. Add any accumulated juices from the cutting board back into the pan; heat for 1 more minute. Use tongs to discard the oxtails and ribs; then strain the jus into a gravy-boat; pressing down on the onions to yield as much jus as possible.
  11. With the browned-side up, cut into 3/8″-thick slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and serve immediately, passing the jus separately.

Blanched Green Beans with Rosemary-Thyme Aioli

January 13, 2015

I made these blanched green beans as a “make ahead” time saver, but found that making them ahead didn’t actually save any time. In the time it took to re-heat them just before dinner, I could have just as easily made them from scratch. The good news is that the green beans were good, perfectly cooked. The aioli was quite potent; a little goes a long way. Even though I made 2 pounds of green beans, I still used less than half of the aioli. Overall, the combination was 3-1/2 star. Slightly better than my daily green beans.

Delicious, but not sure I need a recipe

Delicious, but not sure I need a recipe

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball goes against his own cooking recommendations. He says that older, tougher green beans (such as those sold in supermarkets most of the year) are best when roasted. The roasting promotes the conversion of starches to sugars, which improves the flavor.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Finish time 5:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The Aioli recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared this today are given below:

Green Beans Ingredients:
2 1/2 quarts water
1 teaspoon table salt
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off

  1. Prepare the green beans by washing and then cutting off both ends (see photos below). The easiest way is to take a push a bunch of green beans against the blade of the knife so that they are perfectly in line, then slice of the tips all in one cut.
  2. Add 2-1/2 quarts water to large saucepan and bring to a boil over high burner.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon salt and green beans, return to boil which will take about 2 minutes. Boil for another 3 to 4 minutes until the beans become bright green and crisp-tender. Meanwhile, fill large bowl with ice water.
  4. Drain beans into colander and the immediately into the ice water.
  5. After 2 minutes the beans no longer feel warm to touch. Again drain in colander then completely dry using paper towels. Put beans in a  gallon-sized zip-lock bag. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use. They will keep up to 3 days.

Rosemary-Thyme Aioli Ingredients:
1 medium clove garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, or black if white is unavailable
3/4 cup olive oil (or 50% extra-virgin olive oil and 50% vegetable oil).

  1. Peel and press garlic through garlic press (alternatively you can grate very finely on rasp-grater). Measure out 1 teaspoon garlic, discarding any remaining garlic. Add to the bowl of food processor.
  2. Chop rosemary and thyme and add to food processor. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Process for 10 seconds until combined.
  3. With food processor running, gradually add oil in slow steady stream (which will take about 30 seconds). Scrape down the sides of bowl with rubber spatula and process for another 5 seconds.
  4. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, and serve.
Rosemary-thyme ailoi

Rosemary-thyme ailoi


Twelfth Day of Christmas Tamales

January 6, 2015

For the past five years I have celebrated today; Epiphany; January 6th; the day when the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus by making tamales. This year, I ended up in a 3-day-long tamale making marathon (Saturday to Monday). I tried a few new techniques, including incorporating some tricks from this Pernil. I used a bone-in pork shoulder (instead of a boneless butt roast), crisped up the skin afterwards and chopped it up and added it to the pork filling. In the end, this year resulted with 4-1/2 star tamales. Of course, my favorite part of this tradition is to deliver the tamales to my friends’ houses as a small gift (who have no idea that the plate of tamales were 3 days in the making).

The finished tamales were best yet

The finished tamales were best yet

In Mexico, the 12th day of Christmas is commemorated by eating Rosca de Reyes and searching for the hidden muñecitos (little baby Jesus dolls) within the cake. According to tradition, anyone who finds the tiny dolls hidden in their cake slice must make a Tamale dinner on February 2nd. In a slight variation of the Mexican tradition, I have been making and delivering Christmas tamales on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. BTW, my first years of making tamales were a disaster. Again this year, I also made some homemade tomatillo sauce.

Comments:

  1. These pork tamales take at least 9 hours to make, but can easily started the day before all the way up until you make the dough. You will have to divide the tamales up between two pots, which I made one after the other. I make the second batch of tamales on the next day.
  2. Because I don’t have a steamer basket, I made my own out of Coke cans cut to half-height and collapsible colander (or a flattened disposable aluminum pan with steam holes poked all over, but use bamboo skewers to support the flattened disposable pan so that it wouldn’t collapse under the weight of the tamales).
  3. The spices for the filling are based upon a 4-lb boneless or 6-lb bone-in pork roast. Adjust the seasoning based upon your roast size.
  4. If you have any leftover pork you can use it to make tostadas or taquitos.
  5. In all, the thirsty masa will need 9 cups of broth. 7 cups of pork broth and 2 cups of chicken stock (for softening the grits).
  6. The best way to re-heat tamales in the microwave is to wrap them in a damp paper towel before microwaving for about 1-1/2 minutes per tamale.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $20 for 3 dozen.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess?  High.
Start time: 9:00 AM. Dinner time (First batch): 6:00 PM.

Tamales Filling:
6-lb bone-in pork shoulder (or 4-lb boneless pork shoulder )
2 onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon salt
6 springs of thyme
Dried corn husks (3 to 4 ounces; about 40 husks)
8 ounces of shredded Monterrey jack cheese

  1. Nine hours before dinner, set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 9 cups of water into a large roasting pan, adding the other ingredients listed under the Tamale Filling. Place pork in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with extra-wide aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  2. Turn down the oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting, covered, for 2-1/2 more hours.  Meanwhile, take your dried corn husks out of the package and put them in a large Pyrex casserole dish filled with hot tap water. This will soften them so they are pliable enough to be easily folded. Use a dinner plate set on top to submerge the husks and allow to soak for a minimum of 3 hours.
  3. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  4. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, keep adding water to prevent the pan from drying out; you will eventually need 7 cups of broth.)
  5. So that the top of the roast is level with the top of the oven, create a ball of foil to support the narrow end. Return to oven, and broil for 10 minutes; rotating halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy, and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  6. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board. Remove frozen corn from freezer and allow to thaw.
  7. Meanwhile, pour broth through a strainer into a large bowl. Allow to settle for 5 minutes and skim off any excess fat. You will need a total of 7 cups of pork broth, so augment with tap water as necessary. Set pork broth aside for making the dough.
  8. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin finely into small pieces and set aside.
  9. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and coarsely chop then shred using two forks (or your fingers once it’s cool enough). As you shred the pork you will find bits of extra fat or unappetizing bits to discard. Because I don’t have enough large bowls, I use a Pyrex casserole dish to hold the shredded pork. Mix in 8 ounces of shredded Monterrey jack cheese and chopped pork skin from Step 8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the meat from drying out.

Filling Paste:
1/2 cup corn oil
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

  1. While pork cooks, mix the paste ingredients together in a small bowl, then add it to the shredded pork. Mix until incorporated, and allow to marinade until ready to assemble the tamales.

Tamales Dough (Masa):
2 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups quick grits (not instant)
10 ounces frozen corn, thawed
7 cups masa harina (1-lb 15-ounces)
3 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 ounces raisins
2-1/4 cups of corn oil (or vegetable shortening)
7 cups quarts of the pork broth (from filling recipe)

  1. Bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil, remove from burner and add quick grits. Allow to soften for 10 minutes, then empty softened grits and corn into food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. In a separate large bowl, add grits/corn from food processor, 7 cups masa flour and all spices and raisins. Use a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Add 2-1/4 cups of corn oil (or vegetable shortening) to masa and 7 cups pork broth (1 cup at a time), mixing well after every cup.  It should be the consistency of peanut butter. It is important to evenly distribute the liquid; every year some of my tamales are dry because I am not successful.
  4. Shake the excess water off the corn husks. Separate and place them on a wire rack to allow them to slightly dry.
  5. Lay the husk flat and spread about 3-1/4 oz masa (about 1/3-cup) in a rectangle in the center of the husk to about 1/4″ thickness. Put as much shredded pork in the middle of the masa will fit; for better flavor. Push filling flat and so that it works its way slightly into the masa. Use the corn husks to work dough into a cylindrical shape, with the dough on the outside and the filling is on the inside. Fold and roll your tamale, and set aside in a stack. See some helpful hints on rolling below.
  6. Fill the pot with water; being careful that the water level is below the bottom of steamer basket. I used a colander fitted inside my Dutch oven, and also used soda cans cut in half (with holes punch in bottom) to elevate my collapsible steamer.
  7. Fill the steamer basket with prepared tamales so that gravity will hold their seam closed. Most likely the tamales will not all fit in one pot and will need to be steamed in two batches.
  8. Cover your steamer and bring the water up to a boil. Then turn down the heat down (but maintaining a boil) and steam for about 1-1/2 hours. Cover pot with aluminum foil to better seal the pot, then cover with lid. If you see a lot of steam escaping, add water if necessary so that the pot doesn’t boil dry. The tamales will be done when the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the husks, also try tasting a bit of the masa.
  9. Preparation time is 9 hours. Makes 36 tamales, and use the remaining filling to make tostadas.

Lesson in Tamales Rolling:

 


Authentic Baguettes at Home

January 4, 2015

People travel for different reasons. I usually travels with two main goals. (1) Appreciate the local culture by trying to meet and interact with regular people (i.e. those outside the main-stream tourist industry). And (2), eat as much of the local food as possible. While my first goal is nearly impossible in well-trodden Paris, my second goal is always the Parisian-equivilent of a home run. Paris is perhaps the worlds great culinary city (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Crusty, open texture

Crusty, open texture

I am not alone when I say that one of my favorite simple pleasures about Paris are the deliciously ubiquitous baguettes. Always warm and fresh; a Parisian treasure for just €1. Here is the US the baguettes are usually lacking in flavor or crusty texture, but if you are lucky they can sometimes be found. When this recipe first came out, I balked at the length, complexity and additional kitchen gadgets the recipe required (couche, flipping board, diastatic malt powder, and special lame). In the end, I didn’t buy any of the gadgets, but made the delicious baguettes over two-to-three days. They turned out amazing. 5-stars for flavor and texture.

On a side note: the second great city for bread is my home town of San Francisco, which has the best sour dough bread in the world. As is the case for many things in life, it wasn’t until I moved away that I came to appreciate San Francisco’s uniqueness in the world of bread (for a few details see harvesting wild yeast for sourdough). A few years ago, I bought a loaf of Sour Dough from Panera in New Jersey, but the loaf was soundly rejected by my boys.

Comments:

  1. The recipe calls for a flipping board, but Chris Kimball explains that you can just table a double layer of cardboard.
  2. The first 5 minutes of baking call for two inverted disposable pans. Because I didn’t have one long enough to cover the loaves, I cut the ends off both pans which allowed it to slide like an accordion.
  3. The optional diastatic malt powder called for in this recipe allows the crust to brown and become crispier.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: At least 2 days before baking. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (1-1/3 ounces)
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
1-1/2 cups water (12 ounces)
2 disposable aluminum roasting pans (16″x12″)

Day 1: Mix the dough, allow to rise and refrigerate. (2h15m)

  1. Add whole wheat flour to a fine-mesh strainer and sift into the bowl of a standing mixer; discarding the bran. Add the all-purpose flour, salt, instant yeast and malt powder too. With the standing mixer on low-speed, use the dough hook, add the water and mix for 5 to 7 minutes until dough forms. Empty dough into a large bowl that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Fold the dough over onto itself; pick up the edge of the dough with your fingertips and gently lift it towards the center of the bowl; turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again; repeating a total of 8 folds. Again, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  3. Repeat folding and rising 3 more times. Immediately after the fourth set of folds, cover the dough and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours, but up to 72 hours.

Day 2: Shape and Bake the loaves in two batches ( per batch)

  1. Lightly flour a counter and empty dough without deflating. Carefully pat into 8″-square, and cut in half. Refrigerate the other half of the dough which can be shaped and baked anytime within the 72-hour time frame.
  2. Cut dough in half again, leaving you with two 2″x2″ squares. Move to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap; allowing to rise for 45 minutes.
  3. Roll out each of the two pieces of dough into a 3″x4″-long cylinder. Return to the floured baking sheet, cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. On a second baking sheet, lightly spray with water the underside of a couche or piece of parchment. Dust the top with flour.
  5. Return the dough to a lightly floured counter and gently press one of the pieces into a 6″x4″ rectangle. Fold 1-inch over to form a 6″x3″ rectangle, then fold the other 1-inch edge over to form a 6″x2″ rectangle, and gently stretch into an 8″x2″ rectangle.
  6. Fold dough in half again, lengthwise, and use your thumb to form a crease along the center of the dough, as you work your way folding over the length of the loaf, using the heel of your hand to reinforce the seal (without pressing down on the loaf).
  7. Cup your hands gently over the center of the dough and roll it gently to tighten the dough (t should form a doggy-bone shape, i.e. wider at the ends).  Continue to gently work the dough, beginning in the center, rolling and stretching, and working towards the ends, until the dough measures 15″ long and about 1-1/2″ wide. Roll the ends between the palms of your hands to form sharp points.
  8. Move loaf with the seam-side upwards onto the couche or parchment prepared in Step 4. Pleat the couche on both sides of the loaf which will gently help the loaf maintain its shape. Loosely cover with large, unscented plastic garbage bag.
  9. Repeat Steps 5 though 8 with the second piece of dough, then move the loaves inside the large trash bag and fold top over onto itself to close. Allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until it has doubled in size. You should be able to gently poke and the dough will slightly spring back.
  10. Meanwhile, set a rack to the middle of your oven, put a baking stone or overturned sheet pan, and begin pre-heating to 500-degrees. Also line a pizza peel with 16″x12″ piece of parchment paper, so that the long edge is perpendicular to handle.
  11. Remove and dough from bag and pull the ends of the couche to flatten (ie, removing the pleats). Use a flipping board to roll so that it is seem side down, and tilt/flip the loaf on top of the flipping board. Move to parchment lines pizza peal with the seem-side down; about 2″ from the edge of parchment. You can use the flipping board to straighten the loaf. Repeat with the second loaf, leaving at least 3″ between the two loaves.
  12. Use the lame to make a series of three 4″-long, 1/2″-deep slashed at a 30-degree angle across the length of the loaf. The slashes should slightly overlap. Repeat the slashing on the second loaf.
  13. Use Pizza peel to move loaves and parchment onto baking stone. Use the inverted disposable pans to cover loaves and bake for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove the plans a continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer; rotating the loaves/parchment half way through baking. The loaves will be done when they are evenly browned.
  14. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes, but be sure to consume within 4 hours. I was able to extend their freshness by a few hours by putting them in a plastic bag after 2 hours of cooling.

Happy New Year 2015!

January 1, 2015
Welcoming in the New Year at midnight

Welcoming in the New Year at midnight

Overall, I begin 2015 on a much sounder footing that I did 2014. While 2014 was generally a fantastic year, the year ushered in many changes; some good, some not-so-good. In the Kitchen, it was a nice year filled with new recipes, I was somewhat surprised that 2014 included only one five-star meal. My top 10 recipes from 2014 are:

  1. Garlic-Lime Grilled Pork Tenderloin Steaks, 5-stars.
  2. Valentine’s Day Truffles
  3. Boeuf à la mode, 4-1/2 stars.
  4. Coq au Vin, 4-1/2 stars.
  5. Carne Asada, 4-1/2 stars.
  6. Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lime and Coriander, 4-1/2 stars.
  7. Pernil, 4-1/2 stars.
  8. Julia Child’s Deconstructed Turkey, 4-1/2 stars.
  9. Lobster Rolls
  10. Coffee Latin Flan, 4-1/2 stars.

2015 begins the first year in the life of my nearly 14-year-old son that we, as a country, are not openly at war in Afghanistan. The last open wound from 9/11 can finally begin to heal. While not exactly the same things as peace; I sincerely hope that this lack of war turns into the first step towards a greater, and long-lasting peace. That the obvious tensions, both here and abroad, can be overcome, and that such peace be will allowed to take hold around the world.

Here are past year’s best recipes.


Pommes Anna

December 31, 2014

I made these decorative potatoes as part of my wonderful holiday meal. While they look beautiful, a quick glance at the ingredient list reveals that they are just a prettier version of plain, old potatoes. No surprises whatsoever. The slow-cooking in the skillet on the stove-top gives them a nice crust. The carmelization adds nice flavor. 3-1/2 stars, the texture of my top layer was a little over-done. Next time I will reduce the stove-top cooking to 25-minutes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Chris Kimball warns against slicing the potatoes until you are ready to start assembling. I’m not sure what the consequences are, but thought that it was important to pass along. I had contemplating to peel and slice them ahead of time to save time on the day of my massive meal.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:45 PM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

3-lbs russet potatoes (you can also use Yukon Gold or white potatoes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel your potatoes. Also melt the 5 tablespoons of butter; either in the microwave or in a 10″ non-stick skillet (wipes and used again in Step 3). Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees.
  2. Use the slicing attachment on your food processor to slice your potatoes into 1/16″-to-1/8″-thick slices. Empty into a large bowl with melted butter, and use your hands to toss until potatoes are evenly coated.
  3. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil to a clean, 10″ heavy-bottomed, non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Swirl to evenly coat the skillet. Set a kitchen timer of 30 minutes, and put the skillet over medium-low burner.
  4. Use the nicest slices to form the bottom layer. Start arranging by placing one slice on center the skillet. Continue by overlapping more slices in a circle around the center slice. Continue to form the next outer circle of overlapping slices. Your first layer should consist of 3 or 4 rows of overlapping potatoes until the entire bottom of the skillet is covered with potatoes. Evenly sprinkle each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper.
  5. Arrange the second layer of potatoes by working in the opposite direction of the first layer; evenly sprinkling each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper. Continue repeating the layering of potatoes, switching directions with each layer, and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until you have used all the potato slices. You can piece together broken or uneven slices to form a single piece. When you are done, the potatoes will mound in the center of the skillet.
  6. Continue cooking until the 30-minute timer you set in Step 3 has beeped (if you are unsure about the correct setting of medium-low, check after 25 minutes. Use the bottom of a 9″ cake pan to press down firmly to compact the potatoes. Use a lid to cover the skillet and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes. Test the doneness of potatoes using a paring knife.
  7. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or the bottom side of a sheet pan) with aluminum foil, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Hold potatoes in place using the back of the cake pan, titling skillet, drain off and discard any excess oil.
  9. Put foil-lined sheet on top of skillet, wearing oven mitts, flip over and remove skillet. Carefully slide potatoes into serving platter. Serve by cutting into wedges.

French Apple Tart

December 29, 2014

For me, holiday meals usually involve pulling out all the stops. Usually a week’s worth of planning and cooking. And so it was that I came to make this beautiful Apple Tart for Christmas, one of the most visually stunning desserts that I have ever made. The crust had 10 tablespoons of butter (so it’s got to be good). The tart used 5-pounds of apples, so it was destined to be filled with apple flavor. Inexplicably, against everything my eyes were telling me, I simply didn’t like the tart. Just 2-stars.

Looks like a work of art.

Looks like a work of art.

At first, I thought that the desserts downfall primarily lay in the high visual expectations, coupled with the unpopular applesauce-like consistency of the puree used to hold the slices in place. All of my guests complained about the “applesauce”. But as I more closely examined the recipe I noticed a few ingredients were not part of the recipe. Most notably: sugar. While billed as a “tart”, its did not have any relief of the tartness of the green apples.

Rating: 2-star.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 10:00 AM. End time: 12 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Crust Ingredients:
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (6 2/3 ounces)
5 tablespoons sugar (2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Put butter in a small sauce over low heat and allow to slowly melt; about 5 minutes. Also, set an oven rack to lowest position and another rack 5″-to-6″ from broiler element. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Add melted butter and stir with stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  4. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough into bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan.
  5. Press and smooth dough with your hands to even thickness.
  6. Place pan on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake on lowest rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Set aside until ready to fill.

10 Golden Delicious apples (8 ounces each)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Peel and core 5 apples (remaining 5 will be used later). Cut lengthwise into quarters and cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices.
  2. Set 12″ skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Add apple slices and 1 Tablespoon water and toss to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave apricot preserves for 30 seconds until they become fluid. Strain preserves through a fine-mesh strainer reserving the solids. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the strained preserves for brushing tart (most will be used for making the applesauce).
  5. Transfer apples to large plate, spread into single layer, and set aside to cool. Do not clean out the skillet.
  6. Peel and core the remaining 5 apples and slice into 1/2″-thick wedges. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium burner. Add the strained preserve, apricot solids, apple wedges and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover with lid and cook for 10 minutes; stirring a few times until the apples become very soft.
  7. Use a potato masher to mash into a puree and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until it has reduced to 2 cups.
  8. Put puree into baked tart shell and smooth. Select 5 or 6 of the thinnest sauteed apples to use in the center.
  9. Start at the outer edge of the tart, arrange slices in concentric circles, offsetting each circle so that the slices don’t line up. It will create the flower-like pattern. Use the thin, reserved slices to fit into the center.
  10. Bake at350 degrees for 30 minutes (still on the wire rack in sheet pan).
  11. Remove from oven and pre-heat broiler. Water the 3 tablespoons of preserve from Step 4 in microwave for 20 seconds. Evenly brust over the entire surfact of the apples, but avoiding the crust.
  12. Broil for 1 to 4 minutes until the apples are attractively browned. Allow tart to cool for 1-1/2 hours before removing from tart pan and serving.

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