Tuna Corks and Apple Tourtes

Supplies are running dangerously low around here. We ran out of milk a week ago and haven’t gone to the store yet because we’re trying to decide whether or not we can afford to renew our Costco membership this month. I’ve been whipping up meals based on whatever I have cash for at the farmer’s market or can scrounge up from the pantry and freezer, and we’ve actually been eating very well despite the end-of-month atmosphere in the kitchen. Last night’s dinner, for instance, was tuna corks (or bouchons au thon), shredded carrot salad and rice, with slices of apple tart for dessert.

I’ve been meaning to try this recipe from Orangette pretty much ever since it was first posted years ago. But every time it crossed my mind, I was lacking some crucial element from it: creme fraiche, gruyere, or tomato paste. This time I was determined not to let that stop me, since I had pastured farmer’s market eggs to highlight. I still had no creme fraiche, so I just used heavy cream and a teaspoon of tangy mustard (a very dissimilar substitution, I know, but no milk means no homemade yogurt means no home-cultured creme fraiche); I also had to substitute my lacto-fermented ketchup for tomato paste since that is where all of it ended up. Oh, and dehydrated shallots and chives for freshly minced onion and parsley just because I spent half the day in the kitchen futzing around with wild blackberries and was feeling lazy.

Jeremy looked from the tuna corks, coming out of the oven in the muffin pan, to the shredded carrot salad in a bowl on the countertop, and asked rather hopefully if I had made carrot cake muffins. Not this time, honey—although those have been on my list to make for a while now. I could tell that he was apprehensive about eating this meal because he gobbled down half his rice and and sniffed at the tuna suspiciously before tasting it. He ended up going back for seconds on everything but the carrot salad, however, and I’d have to agree with him there, even though I appreciated the crunch and tartness alongside the creamy, savory little bouchons. To make it, I used up the last few beautiful carrots given to us by a friend, but for future reference, bottled lemon juice just can’t hold a candle to freshly squeezed in this application.

As for dessert, Jeremy had been requesting apple pie, so I got some organic Wynoochie apples (I think that was the name) at the farmer’s market, a lovely crisp, mildly tart variety, for just that purpose. I wanted to try a new recipe, and ended up making Dorie Greenspan’s Tourtely Apple Tart from Baking: From My Home to Yours, even though googling the recipe yielded no prior reviews. Am I the only food blogger that has baked this thing?

The recipe calls for an almond-infused shortbread-type crust, half patted into the tart pan with your fingers, and the rest chilled and rolled out. Being the renegade that I am, I chose to roll out my top crust and then refrigerate it—I live on the edge. This actually worked out nicely: I just put the dough between two layers of waxed paper, and it was soft enough to roll out with no resistance. Then the wax-papered layer went on a baking sheet with the prepared tart pan on top, and they were ready to bake with the next afternoon. The bottom crust blind-baked while I cooked down the apple filling, which is sweetened and spiced very lightly to let the apple flavor shine through, then bolstered with almond meal and brown butter. The top crust softened enough to work with after just a few minutes out of the fridge, and was a snap to turn out onto the tart pan. Somewhere along the way, I failed to notice that the tart had called for a doubled crust recipe, so I was just barely able to stretch the amount I had to do the job; it meant my crust was very thin and browned a bit more than I would have liked, and there was no extra for making little cookies or pretty decorations on top. Oh well.

I thought the finished tart was delicious. The crust was tender and crumbly, and the filling was much closer to applesauce than individual bits of apple, with flavorings that allowed the apples’ own brightness to shine through. Jeremy was disappointed by this offering because he apparently had his heart set on an American-style apple pie and although he liked the crust, this slim little apple tart didn’t float his boat. I notice this hasn’t stopped him from eating just as much as I have, warm or cold. But maybe I’ll take pity on him anyway and do apple dumplings or turnovers or something with a few of my remaining apples once the tourte is gone.

Tourtely Apple Tart

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C ground almonds
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks plus 2 T butter, very cold, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks

2 lb tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored and cut into 2″ chunks
1/3 C brown sugar
2 T apple cider, apple juice or water (I used tea)
PInch of freshly ground nutmeg
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 C ground almonds
Pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and/or salt

Place the flour, sugar, ground almonds and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until it is reduced to pea or oatmeal-sized crumbs. Add the egg yolks and use 10-second pulses just until the mixture comes together in clumps.

Butter a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Divide the tart dough in half, and press half evenly into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Cover with buttered aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least two hours. Meanwhile, place the remaining tart crust between two sheets of waxed paper (I used one long sheet folded in half) and roll it out into a 10″ circle. Slide onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until needed.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and fill the foil-lined crust with pie weights or dried beans; bake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the apple filling: Place the apples, brown sugar, cider and nutmeg in a medium saucepan over medium heat, cover and bring to a boil. Continue cooking at a medium simmer for about 10 minutes, until the apples are nearly soft enough to mash with the spoon. Remove the cover, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring, until any remaining liquid evaporates. Place the filling in a bowl, and wipe out the pan, then melt the butter in it over medium high heat. Cook the butter until it boils and browns, keeping a close eye on it so as not to let it burn. When it looks brown and smells nutty, dump it in with the apples and add the vanilla, almonds and spices. This filling can be made ahead and refrigerated if desired.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and fill the crust with the cooled apple filling, smoothing the surface. Remove the top crust from the refrigerator and allow to warm for a few minutes, enough to be more pliable than brittle. Moisten the edges of the tart shell and place the top crust over the lot; seal the tart and clean up its edges by running a rolling pin firmly over the top crust.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and cover loosely with foil; continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool until just warm or at room temperature before serving.

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (p. 306-307, 444-445).

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