food writing

post46 // london town

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hello friends!! i hope your day is going well. i am back in paris and culinary school after a long weekend spent in london. it was my first time there! and i just loved it. not to mention, i had the best tour guide around: my good friend from college, greta! before i get into the dirty details of our weekend, let’s just take a moment to look at how cool the taxis are there!!! this blue one was my fave.

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pastries at aubaine deli in covent garden

after two weeks in immersion boot camp (a.k.a. french host family and culinary school where chefs only speak french), english-speaking london was a nice brain break for 48 hours. visiting a friendly face, particularly greta’s, was also a true treat. my weekend there started with a terrific walking tour after a late brunch at dishoom. greta might as well be a professional tour guide so i’d advise you all to book her for your next visit to london.

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big ben in the flesh

from covent garden to trafalgar square to buckingham palace to westminister abbey to the palace of westminister to big ben to the river thames to the london eye, we saw. it. all. and the rain held off!

while we were at buckingham palace, greta pointed out that the queen was in because the royal standard flag was raised. i waved but i don’t think she saw me through her windows!

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buckingham palace

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queen victoria statue outside of buckingham palace

while we didn’t physically go on the london eye that afternoon, we did sit across the river from it at a bar on a boat called tattershall castle. if you can’t get on the (might i say very slow-moving) london eye, this spot is definitely your next best view. after all that walking, we went back to greta’s place to relax before a big indian dinner at tayyabs. can you tell we like indian food?!

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london eye 👀

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tayyabs spread

day two in london began with a place that i will undoubtedly be returning to for the rest of my life. before leaving her apartment, greta described this place as my “heaven on earth.”

she was right.

enter borough market, london’s famed food market situated just beside the london bridge. this place was incredible! the only thing i could relate it to was smorgasburg but it was x100000 better (sorry new york!).

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berliner pastries at a german bakery stand, borough market

greta’s german heritage led us to a small german bakery stand, filled with berliners, apple cakes, cheese cakes, and more. we actually went back to this stand twice throughout our ~6 hours spent on and off at borough market. the owner was lovely and gave me some tips on how to make her creamy and crumbly apple cake! blog post coming on a recipe there soon!

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that’s pure joy folks (while eating an apple cake)

i’ve never seen so many different types of food all in one place. the serving platters were ginormous and evidently necessary, given the expansive market space was packed to the brim.

if you do go to borough market, i’d recommend bringing a buddy along as there is just too much food that you want to try that you can’t eat all by yourself. greta and i managed to split most of our portions and therefore eat more different types of food than we could’ve if we were just alone. tag teaming borough market for the win!

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paella tastings fo free!

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greta modeling w our cheese stick

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market views

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scotch eggs! because of course

the photos catalog pretty much everything i ate at borough market. it was definitely one of those days where you loosen up the first button of your jeans.

to round out our afternoon at borough market, greta and i headed to the pubs where i reunited with some of my brother jake’s friends from college. it’s a funny thing living abroad — you end up seeing and connecting with people you haven’t seen in ages, and it’s wonderful!

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goodbye for now london! it was great getting to know you. i have a feeling i’ll be back, especially because you’re just two hours away!!

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Dishoom 5 Stable St, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AB

Covent Garden Covent Garden, London WC2E 8BE

Tattershall Castle Victoria Embankment, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HR

Tayyabs 83-89 Fieldgate St, London E1 1JU

Borough Market 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL


aaaand in this week’s other stuff:

  • glossier came to paris !!!! (hi melissa!)
  • this is what kitchens can do. (h/t kate)
  • don’t you just sometimes want to dress in hot pink?

again, any paris recos please send my way! i have a big weekend of exploring ahead of me and i’m taking all the advice i can get 🙂

post41 // blueberry crumb pie

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hi there! how are you? i hope you’re having a lovely day, made even better by looking at photos of ice cream melting in this blueberry crumb pie. i promise it really does taste as good as it looks. so keep reading!

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my past couple of days were filled with so much good food and fun. my two ex-roomies from new york came down for a visit and we somehow wound up at a peruvian independence day party. it was a blast! and for the first time in three years, i ate authentic aji de gallina — a peruvian dish made out of shredded and creamed chicken with aji pepper, potatoes, and eggs. it tasted just like what i had eaten when living in peru: comforting and delicious. speaking of which, maybe i’ll have to work on an aji de gallina recipe of my own soon. more coming there!

in the meantime, i think this blueberry crumb pie will keep you warm and comforted in a different way. a sweeter way. to start, i’ll let you know that this recipe is the result of no real direction. all i knew going into baking yesterday was that i wanted to make some sort of pie/galette/crisp/crumble/buckle/streusel type dessert (or breakfast!) with fresh blueberries since they’re in season. i ended up with a cross between a crumble, galette, and pie — but that seemed like too many words to fit in the title. so blueberry crumb pie it is!

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i began with my favorite trusty pie crust, an all-butter variety adapted from Kate Lebo’s butter crust, as seen in Pie School. i used a 13×6″ pyrex pan and rolled the entire double-pie crust out into a rectangular shape, then transferred it to the pan. at first, i thought that i would keep the pie crust crimped but after loading in the blueberry and sugar filling, i realized i had some room for the crust to fold over. i layered on the crumb topping and then folded the extra crust over, completing the galette portion of this dessert (see what normal galettes look like here).

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before baking, i swiped on a light egg wash and then dropped some sugar onto the pie crust. i used granulated sugar but i’d recommend sanding sugar if you can get it — it adds an extra crunch to your crust.

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of course, any baked good like this isn’t complete without a bit of vanilla ice cream dressed on top. as you can see, a bit in my family = three very large spoonfuls.

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so go on, give this recipe a whirl! it’s perfectly doable after-work, but even more enjoyable on a day off. it’s something you can pick at throughout the day or serve to a dinner party at night. pro tip: the ice cream spoonfuls are a nice way to “present” the pie if you’re hosting!

and in other news, here’s this week’s other stuff!!

my ex-roomie melissa got a job at glossier !!! 👏👏👏 i celebrated her win by buying their newly released wowder. will report on how it looks next week!

a really sound article on wellness and diet trends in this month’s elle: “every day, people” by lucy danziger

ikea’s 2018 catalog is everything.

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blueberry crumb pie

serves 10-12, in a 13×6″ pyrex

fixings

pie crust:

2½ cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) well-chilled unsalted butter

filling:

3 pints blueberries, washed and de-stemmed

2/3 cup sugar (+more for egg wash)

2 tablespoons corn starch

zest from 1 lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

crumb:

1/4 keebler graham cracker crust, broken up

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 egg

instructions

pie crust (adapted from Kate Lebo’s, Pie School):

  1. fill a spouted liquid measuring cup with about 3/4 cups of water, plop in some ice cubes, and place it in the freezer while you prep the following steps.
  2. in a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. drop 1-tablespoon pieces of butter into the flour and toss the fat with the flour to evenly distribute it.
  3. place your palms up and curl your fingers back to scoop up the flour and fat. rub, rub, rub it between your thumb and fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl after rubbing. make sure you reach into the bottom and around the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour into the fat, until the mixture is slightly yellow, slightly damp. it should be chunky—mostly cherry-size pieces, the smaller bits resembling coarse cornmeal.
  4. take the water out of the freezer. pour it (slowly!) in a steady thin stream around the bowl for about 5 seconds. toss to distribute the moisture. as you add a bit more water and toss, the dough will become a bit shaggy and slightly tacky to the touch. press a small bit of the mixture together and toss it gently in the air. if it breaks apart when you catch it, add more water, toss to distribute the moisture, and test again. if the dough ball keeps its shape, it’s done.
  5. gather the dough in 1 balls and form the dough into a thick disk using your palms and thumbs. wrap the disk in plastic wrap. refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 days before rolling.

filling, crumb, and assembly:

  1. preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. combine sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, and blueberries in a large bowl. mix and let sit for 10-30 minutes.
  3. in the meantime, prepare your crumb. mix graham cracker crumbs with the rest of the crumb ingredients and toss to combine.
  4. roll out your pie crust as described above, in a rectangle slightly larger than the pyrex pan. (if it’s not perfect, don’t worry!) butter/spray your baking pan and then transfer the pie crust to the pan.
  5. pour the filling in the pan and then follow with the crumb.
  6. beat together the egg and a bit of water in a mug, brush your pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle some sugar to finish.
  7. bake pie at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, and then at an additionally 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. eat!!!

 

post40 // homemade french fries

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hi folks, happy august!! i hope you’re currently reading this on a beach with your out of office up. buuuut in case you aren’t, close your eyes and pretend that’s where you are: on a beach, in a sun chair, with an order of my homemade french fries in front of you. can’t you smell them already?

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yesterday i was craving something greasy, something fatty, something homemade. i was fresh off a trip to new york city for my soon-to-be cousin victoria’s bridal shower! oh, we had so much fun. we had so much fun that i was in need of hungover food, one whole day later. karaoke and a night out dancing will do that to you. oops!

french fries fit the bill. hand-cut, fried, and salted, these fries proved their worth when my family and i couldn’t stop eating them. i built the recipe from smitten kitchen’s, easiest french fries, adding some maryland twang (old bay seasoning) and subbing out the peanut oil for canola oil to make the french fries a *bit* lighter.

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this recipe is truly simple. four ingredients, one vegetable peeler, and one large pot later, you’ve got homemade french fries on your hands. this video helped me a ton in learning how to cut the yukon goldies just right for french fries. the overall gist is to slice the the potato into “planks” and then cut those slices into 1/4 inch batons. once you get the hang of it, the slicing goes by fast.

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next comes the frying! the best part about this recipe? you don’t need a fryer to make french fries! you heard it hear first. instead, a dutch oven or deep frying pan will work just as well. and you don’t have the mess, or smell, of the fryer. i like to call that a win, win — for you, and your kitchen.

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the verdict: homemade french fries are an easy and cheap recipe to make on a lazy day off. they require minimal groceries, you can peel the potatoes while watching tv, and you’ll feel nothing but full and content after eating them.

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and why not cover them in ketchup and make a mess on your new white shirt? i did!!

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here are a couple more tidbits from my week in the rearview!

remember how amazing selena was? i watched her movie twice in the past four days 🙃

one of the best sandwiches i’ve ever had

my go to karaoke song (i even got to sing it with my mom this past weekend!)

have a great day everyone!

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homemade french fries

serves a crowd (about 10)

slightly adapted from smitten kitchen’s, easiest french fries

fixings

3 pounds yukon gold potatoes

1 liter canola oil

2 teaspoons old bay seasoning

table salt to add

+ so much ketchup

tools

dutch oven or deep frying pan

veggie peeler

slotted spoon (helpful but not necessary!)

instructions

  1. wash your potatoes! once they’re nice and clean, peel them completely. you can start slicing them as explained by me and the video above once they’re all peeled.
  2. dump all your potato batons and the liter of oil into your cooking pan. turn the heat to high and let the potatoes sit in their for 20+ minutes. while the potatoes are cooking, place a couple paper towel squares on your largest sheet pan.
  3. start checking the fries’ brownness at 20 minutes and assess how crispy you want them from there. once ready, pull your fries out of the cooking pan with a slotted spoon.
  4. sprinkle with the old bay and table spot and toss to coat 5 minutes after the fries have rested on the sheet pan.
  5. eat!!! (with ketchup of course)

post38 // french crêpes

good morning to you! or afternoon, or evening — just the time of the day you happen to be reading this. you’re in luck because whatever time it is, it’s time for a crêpe.

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crêpes have never been a routine meal of mine. i’m usually eating their cousins (a.k.a. pancakes and dutch babies), which i have more confidence in cooking. my memories of crêpes are special though, associated with château montebello, a hotel in quebec that my family used to drive 12 hours to each new years eve. the endless hot chocolates and crêpes at the hotel made up for the “when are we there yet” and often nauseating car rides for my brothers and i. year after year, crêpes with maple syrup were reason enough to go back.

since those days at montebello, i haven’t spent much time eating crêpes. until now! just two months ago i was invited over to my friend stella’s apartment, which she shares with her sister sarah. sarah is a francophile and has lived in france on-and-off over the years. she has a wonderful host mother from paris, who was visiting new york at the time. given my impending move to france for the year, the sisters thought that i should meet sarah’s host mum and experience a true french crêpe.

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aside from learning so much about paris, i learned how to make (and eat) many french crêpes that night. fast forward two months and sarah is now living with my family for the summer in washington, d.c. (her own american homestay of sorts!). within her first week here, crêpe ingredients were added to our grocery list.

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crêpes are an anytime meal. while we made these ham, egg, and cheese crêpes for dinner, they could just as well be your breakfast or lunch. the batter itself is simple, as sarah says, “think 4-4-2: four eggs, four cups of milk, and 2 cups of flour.” a bit of salt and vegetable oil added complete the batter and next is just the fillings. both sarah and sofie, her parisian host mum, cooked off the entire crêpe batter, kept the cakes warm, and then prepared the fillings right before serving. this is the best way to ensure your crêpe comes out hot. the batter will be much thinner than a normal pancake batter, so don’t be afraid if it looks runny! sarah describes that the consistency is best when it coats a wooden spoon upon lifting, but still drips back into the batter bowl.

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once you’ve cooked off all your crêpe batter and have a stack of eager cakes waiting to be filled, it’s time to load on the toppings. a couple good tips for fillings are to keep them thinly sliced so that they don’t overwhelm the crêpe, another being to spread your crêpe with sour cream (for flavor!) before adding the fillings. if working with uncooked eggs, cover your pan so that the egg can cook off while the rest of the toppings are melting together.

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folding the crêpe together at the end is a simple envelope fold. visually divide the crêpe into three, fold the bottom third up and fix it together by folding the top third down. you can use a little sour cream to seal. by this time, your egg yolk will have burst and it is seriously time to sit down and eat your crêpe.

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very soon, i’m sure you’ll be reading about all the different types of crêpes i’ll be trying in france. until then, i’ll be working on my own crêpe-making skills.

au revoir!

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p.s. this week’s other stuff!!!

i’ll admit to singing this with the windows down very loudly this past weekend. one of my favorites

obsessed with this account and their shop in greenpoint, bk

the drink of my summer (recipe comin’ soon to foodstuffs!)


french crêpes

makes 12 crêpes

fixings

4 eggs

4 cups milk

2 cups flour (all-purpose is fine)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (+ more for coating the pan)

1 teaspoon salt

sour cream

toppings: parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, nutella, powdered sugar, maple syrup, etc.

special tools

a medium-sized fry pan

instructions

  1. mix the milk, flour, eggs, and salt together to form your batter. heat the fry pan over medium-high heat. prepare any toppings such as slicing or shaving the cheeses.
  2. pour a large spoonful of batter into the pan and move it around so that the entire pan is coated in a thin layer. let warm until the bottom side turns lightly brown. turn and repeat. take the crêpe off the burner and let it rest on a nearby plate. repeat until you’ve baked off all the crêpe batter.
  3. you can eat your crêpes now as is with sweet toppings but if you are looking for a more savory crêpe, keep your fry pan warm and add a crêpe back to it.
  4. top crêpe with a thin layer of sour cream. add your egg immediately to the center of the crêpe. as the egg begins to cook, add other toppings around it. cover pan until the egg cooks off and other toppings have melted.
  5. fold the crêpe in an envelope manner, as i described above. visually divide the crêpe into three, fold the bottom third up and fix it together by folding the top third down. you can use a little sour cream to seal.
  6. serve immediately and enjoy!

post36 // flag trifle

hello people! happy 4th of july!

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i know you might be thinking it’s too late to make a dessert for the holiday but i promise, it’s not! over the past 5 years, i’ve had high hopes for my independence day desserts. i’ve dreamed of making this flag cake and this flag cake and this flag cake. but year after year, even after purchasing ingredients to make said cakes, i never do it. who wants to spend their whole day-off baking when they could be napping, drinking, sunbathing, swimming, vegging out, etc? not me.

so this year, i vowed that i would finally make a dessert for july 4th. the only way i knew i would actually get it done was if this dessert was easy — simple, quick, and unfussy. after seeing a number of trifles pop through my email and instagram, i decided i’d give it a go. what’s easier (and tastier) than cake, fresh berries, and whipped cream? not too much in my opinion.

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this dessert is simple because the only baking required is mixing one big bowl of batter, plopping it in two cake pans, and baking for 30 minutes. after that, all that’s left is cutting the cake into chunky pieces, whipping up some cream (or buying whipped cream), and chopping some berries. for an even lazier route, you can purchase a store-bought cake, no baking required. no judgment here.

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also, the fact that i made a trifle for the fourth of july is a big joke! trifles are traditionally british. but i made sure to make an ~american statement~ with this one, 50 blueberries and 13 strawberry-and-whipped-cream stripes complete.

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so go on, make your own flag trifle! your family and friends will be a) impressed and b) very full after they eat it.

but, on the “off” chance you don’t get to it this year, that’s okay too. take it from me, there’s always next year!

oh, and this week’s other stuff!

been listening to these guys all morning

the weirdest/funniest video if you’re trying to learn the french alphabet


flag trifle

makes one 9-inch trifle cake

fixings

cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh baking powder

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, separated

1 cup buttermilk

assembly:

2 pints heavy whipping cream

3 pints blueberries

2 quarts strawberries

1 lb cherries

anything else you want to throw in there that’s red or blue! i added blackberries to mine.

special tools

trifle bowl (i used this one and would highly recommend!)

hand mixer

instructions

cake (adapted from Divas Can Cook, Moist Yellow Cake):

  1. preheat oven to 325 degrees and generously butter two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. mix all the dry ingredients (baking powder, salt, and cake flour) in a smaller bowl.
  4. add the vanilla extract and egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture. whisk the egg whites but do not add them to the mixture yet.
  5. slowly add the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating with adding the flour mixture.
  6. once all buttermilk and flour is added to the big bowl, gently fold in the whipped egg whites.
  7. pour batter evenly into the two cake pans and pop them in the oven. set a timer for 30 minutes. (mine baked a bit over, around 35 minutes so keep watching the cakes once they’ve passed 30.)
  8. take pans out of the oven and let cool before cutting into 1-inch pieces.

assembly (this two recipes really helped me visualize the assembly: Tasting Table’s Cherry-Pistachio Trifle and The Feed Feed’s Red, White, and Blue Trifle Cake):

  1. whip your cream and hull and chop all your berries.
  2. layer in the trifle bowl, starting with cream, then cake, then berry. repeat.
  3. layer until you’re just short of the top of the trifle bowl. to assemble the flag on top, delicately place 50 blueberries in the left-hand corner, and thinly slice your strawberries and place them across, 7 red stripes.
  4. eat!!!

post33 // melting berry pie

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there was a lot to celebrate this past month, most notably my big brother rob’s move up to the big apple. i’ve been hoping he’d make the move since, well since i moved up here, and on saturday april first it came true! i was glad it wasn’t an april fool’s joke. he showed up with my brother jake and i showed up with the best thing i could think of: pie.

pie, pie, pie. we really love pie in my family. probably because i really love making it. on summer weekends together, pie is my baking project of choice. i run out of hands when i start counting the number of friends and family i’ve made pies with.¹ so it seemed only right that upon rob’s arrival, a pie would be a nice treat. not to mention, a really good mid-move snack.

fullsizeoutput_75fi had planned to make the pie saturday morning and bring it over to my brother’s new place that afternoon when they arrived. butttt my plans got a bit meddled after a night out on friday, spent very wisely at my favorite place in nyc: sid gold’s request room, which led to sleeping in on saturday.  who can blame me? needless to say, pie making was pushed a bit later in the day. and my brothers’ plans? they were actually arriving *earlier* than expected. not exactly what i wanted to hear. i got to baking right away.

two hours later and the brothers had arrived in brooklyn as i was just pulling out a hot berry pie from the oven. wow it looked good. but how the hell was i going to get this thing over there? i live seven stops away in manhattan requiring two trains to get to my brother’s new place. would i bring the pie on the subway? i thought about this. for like a second. hell no i was not taking a warm pie in the subway. how would i swipe my subway card and hold it? this pie was still hot so i would have to carry it on a cookie sheet. nope.

the pie didn’t make it on the subway. instead, i went with uber. i was already late anyways so hopefully a car would get me there faster.

fullsizeoutput_760my uber driver was not happy with my entrance. i had to ask a random man on the street to open the car for me and i didn’t really think through driving on nyc streets in a car with a liquidy, bubbling pie. as i sat clutching the pie plate so hard, the dessert spilled and leaked onto the cookie sheet. one big pothole and that pie would’ve leaked all over my uber driver’s car. and boy was he noticing. “is that going to spill??” he kept asking me. “everything okay?” came out of his mouth at each stoplight. i felt terrible, but what could i do! i needed to get the pie there! and i did. a few sticky fingerprints were left on my uber man’s car (sorry sir), but i made it and greeted my brother with a “welcome to new york city” shout and a pie shoved right into his face. a warm welcome right there.

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¹s/o to some special folks i’ve made memorable pies with: this thanksgiving apple w/ my mom, this lattice beauty with stella, this strawberry cream version w/ my dad, this low-res pie w/ yarbs (from my ig’s days of infancy), and this berry number showing off pie process with avh.


berry melt pie

makes 1 double-crust pie

fixings

pie crust:

2½ cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) well-chilled unsalted butter

filling:

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

7 cups fresh berry medley (i used strawberries blueberries, and blackberries but cherries, peaches, plums, and any other fruit will be delicious.)

1 tablespoon milk

2 teaspoons sugar

special tools

rolling pin (or wine bottle!)

pie plate

instructions

pie crust (adapted from Kate Lebo’s, Pie School):

  1. fill a spouted liquid measuring cup with about 3/4 cups of water, plop in some ice cubes, and place it in the freezer while you prep the following steps.
  2. in a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. drop 1-tablespoon pieces of butter into the flour and toss the fat with the flour to evenly distribute it.
  3. place your palms up and curl your fingers back to scoop up the flour and fat. rub, rub, rub it between your thumb and fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl after rubbing. make sure you reach into the bottom and around the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour into the fat, until the mixture is slightly yellow, slightly damp. it should be chunky—mostly cherry-size pieces, the smaller bits resembling coarse cornmeal.
  4. take the water out of the freezer. pour it (slowly!) in a steady thin stream around the bowl for about 5 seconds. toss to distribute the moisture. as you add a bit more water and toss, the dough will become a bit shaggy and slightly tacky to the touch. press a small bit of the mixture together and toss it gently in the air. if it breaks apart when you catch it, add more water, toss to distribute the moisture, and test again. if the dough ball keeps its shape, it’s done.
  5. gather the dough in 2 balls, one slightly larger for the bottom crust. quickly form the dough into thick disks using your palms and thumbs. wrap the disks individually in plastic wrap. refrigerate for an 30 minutes to 3 days before rolling.

filling: 

  1. heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. in large bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups sugar, the cornstarch and salt. gently toss with all the berries and let stand for 15 minutes. dump into the bottom crust-lined pie pan. fold the top crust over the pie plate and arrange strips in a lattice if desired! crimp edges and brush crust with milk, followed by a sprinkle of sugar.
  3. place pie in the middle oven rack and put a cookie sheet below it in case of leakage. bake 20 minutes and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. cover edge of crust with foil strips to prevent burning. bake 40-45 minutes longer or until middle part of crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. recommended: let stand 2 hours before serving (we know I didn’t do that…).

photography by catherine o’donnell/foodstuffs

post26 // a day with chef joel: where i gained an irreplaceable wealth of culinary knowledge

Imagewith Chef Joel Delmond and our Tarte Tatin

It all began on a warm Palm Springs night, under an umbrella-covered dining table where I sat languidly, dead from the parties of Mardi Gras that had slowly sipped the life out of my body. My mom and I sat in the chairs of Pinzimini, the new dining spot in the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa. Despite my normal rash approval of my mothers’ occasional wine offer at dinner, tonight, I declined. Yet, when our waiter circled back around, his news enlivened my drained sensibility. He pointed over to the corner of the veranda, identifying a tall man clad in a pleated tall pearly hat as a James Beard honored chef. For those of you lost as to what “James Beard honored” indicates, the James Beard Award is the highest of national culinary awards, typically referred to as the “Oscar’s” of the food world. While Chef Joel Delmond is not a recipient of this award, he has cooked in the James Beard House, a sensational recognition of its own. In this moment, my ears perked up like those of a puppy hearing the word walk. My mother and I immediately wrapped our friendly waiter into a conversation where we relayed my infatuation with all things culinary, the blog that I began writing in Peru, my obsession with photographing meals from every imaginable angle, and so on. Before I could add another detail about peruvian cuisine, the waiter had brought the amiable Chef Joel to our very table.

My mother, Chef Joel, and I began discussing my love of food, rummaging through the details of my ever-developing blog. In his impeccable English, dusted with a distinct layer of french inflection, Chef Joel spoke of peruvian gastronomy with a striking fluidity. Though soon to get back to the kitchen, Chef Joel did not leave without sharing his information and inviting me to bake with him in the coming days. We exchanged e-mails the next day and decided on an afternoon spent baking a Tarte Tatin, an upside-down apple tart from the Loir-et-Cher region of France, along the Loire River. I later learned that the tart originates from the Hotel Tatin, where the two sisters and owners, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin, famously baked the first Tarte Tatin, the result of a horrid kitchen diaster. Fittingly, Chef Joel hails from this specific part of France and after hearing my stories on peruvian cuisine, he was anxious to share a quintessential french dish.

My afternoon spent in the kitchen was beyond any of my expectations for baking the Tarte Tatin. Not only did I learn an irreplaceable amount of information on pastry-making from Chef Joel, but he elected other members of his staff to introduce me to their large-scale operations of sushi making, pizza dough molding, and the like. When I say other members, I allude to Chef Shawn Aoki, a former Iron Chef contestant. I could not then and still cannot fathom my luck!

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Rolling sushi with Chef Shawn Aoki

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Learning how to handle the pizza peel

By the end of the day, Chef Joel and I had two baked Tarte Tatins. During the assembling of the first tarte, Chef Joel took me on a detailed journey through the art of pie-crust making and caramelizing. He shared tips only a pro would know like how to flour your dough before using your rolling pin, what kind of surfaces you should use for specific actions, how to caramelize for different end results (looking for a sweet and light caramel or an almost-bitter type?), the list never ends.

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Letting the apples soak in water to keep fresh before baking

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Constructing the upside-down tart

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Top layer of the upside-down tart

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Rolling the dough between two sheets of plastic to keep the dough from melting or sticking to the pin

Both Tarte Tatins slowly evolved into beautiful, really striking pieces of culinary art. Smothered in buttery caramel, the apples congealed together in a perfect geometric form, seated upon a thick base of flaky pastry crust. After many Friday afternoons and Christmas seasons spent baking, I cannot say I have made such a beautiful dish as this Tarte Tatin.

With our finished product, Chef Joel and I took the fore-picture of this blog post, a student and instructor, both grinning happily at a Tarte Tatin well done. That evening, my parents and I ate our final meal in Palm Springs at Pinzimini, electing Chef Shawn’s Tasting Menu. We couldn’t have chosen a better meal and to cap it off, we each engulfed our hardy servings of the Tarte Tatin, brought out by Chef Joel himself. I waddled home in the eighty-five degree paradise, brain full with improved pastry techniques and a stomach wide with caramelized apples.

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The baked Tarte Tatin, before being flipped

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The flipped and final Tarte Tatin

Unfortunately, I do not have Chef Joel’s Tarte Tatin recipe for you yet. However, in the meantime I thought that Julia Child’s rendition will do. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients
For the Tart Dough:
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed
For the Tart Tatin:
6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and halved
1 lemon, zested and juiced
11/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, as accompaniment

Directions
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the flours, sugar and butter. Pulse 5 or 6 times in 1/2-second bursts to break up the butter. Add the shortening, turn on the machine and immediately add the ice water, pulsing 2 or 3 times. The dough should look like a mass of smallish lumps and should just hold together in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If the mixture is too dry, pulse in more water by droplets.

Turn the dough out onto the work surface and with the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs into a 6-inch smear. Gather the dough into a relatively smooth cake, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Slice the halved apples into 4 lengthwise wedges each, and toss in a large bowl with the lemon juice and zest and 1/2 cup sugar. Drain the apples after macerating 20 minutes.

In a 9-inch skillet melt the butter over high heat. Stir in the remaining sugar and cook until the syrup bubbles and caramelizes, and turns a brown color. Remove the pan from the heat and arrange a layer of apple slices in a neat pattern on the caramel in the skillet, then arrange the remaining apples neatly on top.

Return the pan to moderately high heat and cook for about 25 minutes, covering the pan after 10 minutes. Every few minutes press down on the apples and baste them with the exuded juices. When the juices are thick and syrupy, remove the pan from the heat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a circle, 3/16-inch thick and 1-inch larger than the top of the pan. Drape the dough over the apples, pressing the edge of the dough between the apples and the inside of the pan. Cut 4 small steam holes on the top of the dough. Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped, about 20 minutes.

Unmold the tart onto a serving dish (so the pastry is on the bottom), and serve warm or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, as desired.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tarte-tatin-recipe.html?oc=linkback