French Apple Tart

I had the opportunity to celebrate my very first friendsgiving this weekend and I had such a good time! Any excuse to get together with friends and celebrate is a good idea in my book. I got together at my friend Lindsay's condo to eat good food, have great conversation, and just enjoy being together before the busyness of the holiday season really picks up steam. We had a lovely meal, the main event being one of my all-time favorites, roasted chicken with clementines and fennel. Of course I had to make a dessert, and I decided to try my hand at a simple and elegant French Apple Tart. seasonal and beautiful in an understated way. It was the perfect way to end such a wonderful meal. 

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Of course I had to use local Jonagold apples from my favorite stand at the farmers market and they were perfect. The whole thing came together quite easily, and was fun to arrange. I made a frangipane to place under the apples which I think was a nice touch, but you can certainly make this without. Whatever you decide, apples, butter and sugar are always going to be a winning combination. 

 
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French Apple Tart
Adapted from Alexandra Cooks
Ingredients
Pate Brisee

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water

Tart

  • 5 to 7 apples, peeled, cored, and halved (I used jonagold, but really any apple will do)
  • 2-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Frangipane

  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1 small egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, rum, brandy or bourbon

For finishing:

  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Instructions
Making the pastry: Combine flour, sugar, 8 tbsp. butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until pea­-size crumbles form, about 10 pulses. Drizzle in 3 tbsp. ice­-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3 to 4 pulses. (Do not pulse so much that the dough forms a mass — It will clump together when you form it into a disk.) Add more water if needed, but use as little as possible, just until the dough is just coming together. If you add too much water it will be tough and will shrink when baking. Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk; wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to three days. When ready to use, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into a 13″ circle and then transfer to a tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges; chill for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile make frangipane: add all ingredients to a food processor and process until comes together into a smooth mass. This may take a little time and require some scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time. Be patient and it will eventually come together. 

When ready to bake; heat oven to 375º. Spread a thin layer (about 2 tablespoons) of frangipane across the bottom surface of your tart shell. Working with one apple half at a time, thinly slice into sections, keeping slices together. Press sliced apple half gently to fan it out; repeat with remaining apple halves. Place 1 fanned apple half on outer edge of the tart dough, pointing inward; repeat with 7 more apple halves (or as many as you are able to fit — with a smaller tart pan, you won't be able to fit as many). Separate remaining apple slices. Starting where the apple halves touch and working your way in, layer apples to create a tight rose pattern. Fill in any gaps with remaining apple.

Sprinkle with sugar and dot with remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Place in the oven (I recommend placing a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil underneath the tart to catch any dripping butter that may otherwise fall to the bottom of the oven and burn) and bake until golden brown, about 70 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and carefully transferring to serving platter. 

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is over once again. It's now December and as I sit and type this the snow is falling outside, beautiful yet I'm not ready. I don't want to have to think about scraping my ice off of my windshield in the early morning, or trudging through piles of snow. But today I'm going to look back, not ahead. Back to last week Thursday. Thanksgiving 2016. This year I was even more thankful to be able to celebrate the day with my family because of my crazy work schedule. I was in the middle of an (almost) 28 day stretch of work, so when I found out that I actually did get Thanksgiving day off I was incredibly excited! That one day was very much needed. 

It was a pretty quiet holiday this year; just my immediate family went over to my Grandparents place for the big meal, only 9 of us. Since I didn't know in advance exactly how many people would be there, I went big an ordered a large turkey just in case. Well, it was quite a bit bigger than we needed, but that was okay. Plenty of leftovers is not a bad problem. 

 
 
 

I brought a wine from my favorite wine shop to Thanksgiving this year. It was recommended by one of the store employees and I enjoyed it quite a bit! A Spanish wine, Bodegas Juan Gil 2013 100th anniversary bottle. A commemorative  bottle blended and bottled to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Juan Gil winery. A blend of 50% Mourvedre, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Syrah. Grandpa approved! 

 
 

The week following Thanksgiving brought my family and me something, or should I say someone, else to be thankful for. My sister-in-law gave birth to her and my brother's second child, a little girl they names Piper. She's beautiful and perfect. I'm already in love. I can't wait to get to know her in the months and years to come! 

 

Thanksgiving 2015

It's done and over, Thanksgiving 2015 is now nothing but another wonderful memory. This is one of my favorite holidays and so I've been looking forward to it for weeks. This year certainly did not disappoint. In fact, the entire weekend was simply wonderful. Thursday morning consisted of Lara and I in the kitchen, steaming up the windows as we roasted up the turkey for the family and put together a handful of other dishes to bring to my grandparent's place for the midday meal. We tried out a new turkey recipe this year which turned out awesome and received rave review from the family. Since we roasted the turkey at my place, it was quite the adventure getting it over to my grandparent's condo in time for dinner. But we made it, turkey, turkey gravy and all, without any misadventures!

Other menu items included my favorite soft dinner rolls which have pretty much become tradition for winter holiday parties now. They are always met with great celebration. In order to accommodate a few food sensitivities I made them dairy free by just using water in place of the milk and choosing the vegetable oil instead of the butter for the fat. They turned out great, there were none left over by the end of the day. 

We also whipped together a pan of stuffing that was full of my favorite fall vegetables, caramelized onions, butternut squash and kale, all mixed together with cubes of my absolute favorite sourdough bread from the best local bakery. A fantastic combination in my book. (Adapted from this recipe, we just couldn't resist adding some butternut squash).

Finally, we brought a big bowl of a delicious Brussel sprout and brown rice salad with dried cherries, blue cheese, cinnamon almonds and cocoa nibs. This was a new recipe that I wanted to try and I ended up really loving it a lot, especially the blue cheese!! (Adapted from this recipe)

There were a lot of other delicious salads on the menu from various family members, a really yummy caramel apple sangria, and my mom's famous mashed potatoes with butter AND cream. A meal to remember for sure. 

For dessert Lara made a beautiful apple cake that was stuffed full of fresh apples (based on this recipe). I find cake easier than pie, and I love it more anyway, win-win!

 A few of the many farmer's market purchases 

 My nephew Tyce was able to help my mom pick up the turkey from the farmer's market on Wednesday, fun times with grandma

 Going for a little drive!

 Turkey carving time; now that's what I call a leg

 Turkey for all, with some stuffing on the side

The whole gang, this is what I give thanks for the most, my wonderful family

 Leftover sandwiches at night, perhaps my favorite part of the whole day And a few pictures from the rest of the weekend: 

 Dad loves to "help" with Christmas decorations

 Topping the tree is always exciting

♥ Family! ♥

Went to the beach on Saturday, it was an absolutely gorgeous day to walk along the water 

 Peek-a-boo

 Heading to the end of the pier

 Sisters!

 Contemplating either life or the mansion on the hill

The three girls

Glazed and Lacquered Turkey
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Ingredients

  • 1 15-20-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed, patted dry
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon allspice berries
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried sage
  • ½ cup (packed) brown sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Remove wishbone from turkey by lifting neck skin to expose meat and cutting along both sides of bone with a small paring knife to separate flesh from bone. Pull firmly on both sides to snap out (if bone does not come out in one piece, grip remaining fragments with a paper towel and pull out). This will make carving the breast much easier later.


Grind bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in a spice mill until very fine; toss with salt, sage, and ¼ cup brown sugar in a medium bowl. Generously sprinkle dry brine inside cavity and rub all over skin, packing on until you’ve used entire mixture. Chill turkey on a large rimmed baking sheet uncovered 8–12 hours. 


Thoroughly rinse turkey to remove brine; pat dry. Let sit on baking sheet 3 hours to bring to room temperature. 


Meanwhile, bring vinegar, soy sauce, and remaining ¼ cup brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened to the consistency of molasses (it needs to be very thick to adhere to the turkey; if glaze is too thin, keep simmering), 5–8 minutes. Let glaze cool.


Preheat oven to 325°. Starting at neck end of turkey, gently slide your fingers between skin and breast to loosen skin. Drizzle olive oil underneath skin, spacing evenly over breasts. Coat a piece of foil large enough to cover turkey breast with nonstick spray. Cover breast with foil, coated side down, avoiding thighs and tucking end inside cavity (foil will protect skin from tearing during first stage of cooking). Place turkey, breast side down, on a V-shape roasting rack set inside a large roasting pan. Roast until back side of turkey is golden brown, 50–60 minutes.


Remove turkey from oven and transfer to a clean rimmed baking sheet with oven mitts or 2 pairs of tongs. Turn bird breast side up and transfer back to rack in roasting pan; discard foil. Pour any juices collected on baking sheet into pan. Roast turkey until breast is golden brown and skin is crisp, 35–45 minutes. 


Remove turkey from oven and brush all over with glaze. Continue to roast, checking temperature every 5 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast near neck registers 150° and no more (temperature will rise as the bird rests), 15–25 minutes. (I honestly pulled mine at 145° after listening to the Bon Appetit podcast when they talked about this recipe, if you choose to do this, which I recommend, do so at your own risk!) Transfer turkey to a platter and let rest 1 hour. 


Increase oven to 450°. Brush another even layer of glaze over turkey. Roast, watching closely in case glaze starts to burn, until turkey is deep golden brown and skin is shiny and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean platter and let rest 30 minutes before carving.


Do Ahead: Turkey can be brined 2 days ahead. Brine on Tuesday, then rinse on Wednesday and chill overnight so you are ready to roast on Thursday.

Thanksgiving 2014

I truly do love all holidays, but there is something special about Thanksgiving. Everyone gets together on the same day every year and stuffs themselves with turkey and all the trimmings. The camaraderie makes me smile, and the fact that the main focus of a lot of people (myself included) is the food makes me love the day even more. For one day I am not the only one doing all of the food talk. 

My sister Lara and I made the Thanksgiving meal for our family again this year. We have such a fun time doing it and have been thinking about it and preparing for weeks. Instead of going full out and roasting an entire turkey we decided to do something a little different this year. One of my biggest pet peeves about Thanksgiving is that the turkey hogs the oven for the entire morning and I can't use it for anything else. (I am jealous of everyone who has more than one oven in their house.) We decided to utilize the grill instead. And for a different spin on the traditional we skipped the whole turkey and decided to grill up a whole bunch of turkey kabobs. 

It turned out great! I loved not cooking an entire turkey, and it was fun to use the grill while standing in a bit of snow. An experience for sure. We tried to keep the sides simple and light as well because that's how we like to eat. Everything went off without a hitch, we were so happy with how it all turned out. I would definitely do it again next year!

As for the rest of the meal, it started off with some butternut squash soup with leeks and carrots, finished with a little yogurt for creaminess. Next, the salad was a spin on the Fuji apple chicken salad from Panera; we sliced up a few apples and dried them out for apple chips, toasted some pecans with a hint of cinnamon sugar, thinly sliced red onion, dried cranberries and some feta cheese rounded out the toppings. The mixed greens were dressed with a simple white balsamic, apple cider vinaigrette with honey and dijon. It was a fantastic salad, Panera sure knew what they were doing when they created it!

We also served some homemade bread and my favorite Clementine Brown Rice Salad. A few extras finished the meal off, a simple cranberry sauce as well as a yummy lemony sage yogurt sauce, both for dipping the turkey into if desired (which I did!). 

While we were finishing up the cooking we served our guests a simple platter of cheese and crackers with some grapes and carrots. Just a little something to whet the appetite. I made a simple sangria and had some apple cider for some festive drinks to go along with the meal. And finally, a pumpkin bundt cake added the finishing touch to a fantastic Thanksgiving. I was so glad to be able to share my love of cooking with my family on this festive day. I am so thankful for all my family members who were able to come and celebrate the holiday together, as well as for all the delicious food we were so privileged to eat. I am so blessed, and for that I am extremely grateful, all year long! God is good is an understatement.

 Simple, yet scrumptious appetizer

 A little cold weather grilling never hurt anyone

 Plenty of drink options

 Dried fruit, pecan and feta salad

 Squash soup

And don't forget the turkey!

Turkey kabobs, my take on the traditional 

 This is what I like to see on Thanksgiving

And never, ever forget about dessert

Classic Apple Pie

I haven't always been a big pie fan. In fact, it's only been in the last year that I've really changed my tune and started to really like pies, a lot! (Don't worry cake, you will forever be my first love.) I was never a big fan of soft, warm fruit, and while it is still not on my top 10, when it's encased in a flaky and buttery crust, generously sprinkled with sugar, and baked until golden perfection it's difficult for me not to like. Since I've jumped on the pie band wagon I decided it was time that my Thanksgiving dinner included an apple pie, it just seemed right. No doubts here; this pie was tall and handsome, but more importantly the taste was spot on, the perfect blend of sweet and buttery, tender apples and flaky crust. A wonderful start to my holiday season.

First ever double crusted pie! I was a little nervous, but knew it would work. It baked up beautifully with no worries. I did cover it with foil about halfway through baking because I do not at all like over-baked crusts. I like a light golden brown, not dark and hard. The perfect ending for my delicious Thanksgiving meal.

Classic Apple Pie
Crust adapted from Martha Stewart
Pie Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Ingredients
Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Pie

  • 5 pounds apples, or about 14 apples (I used Northern Spy)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions
For the crust: using a cheese grater, grate the butter into a bowl and place in the freezer for a few minutes to freeze. In a large bowl mix together flour, salt and sugar. Add the frozen butter and quickly mix together. Add in the ice water a little bit at a time just until the dough comes together in a ball. Add as little water as needed, it's okay if the dough is a little shaggy. Split the dough into two pieces and shape into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out half of the dough into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish and gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the dish. Trim the edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large Dutch oven, stir together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cornstarch. Set over medium heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are just tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook until the liquid has thickened and become glossy, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven, place a baking sheet on the rack and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Transfer the apple filling to the pie shell, and gently invert the top over the pie. Trim the edges flush with the rim of the dish and press the top and bottom crusts together to seal. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Cut a couple of slits in the dough to allow steam to escape.

Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crust is crisp and golden brown, about 40 minutes more, covering the edges with aluminum foil if they become too dark. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.