I was browsing Culinary Concoctions by Peabody this morning, as I was trying to catch up on blog posts again, and found a website linked to it called Cookbook Lovers Unite. As I have been collecting cookbooks for years, I thought this site was pretty cool, so I am following them. I decided to post for them, as long as I can remember to do so. So for the first post, they wanted to hear about your first cookbook love, though it didn't have to be the first one you ever loved.
My first cookbook was a 1950s black and white cookbook for kids that I picked up in a book sale at my school library when I was in 5th grade. It was horribly outdated then, but I found it amusing, so I kept it. My favorite cookbook for years, which I used through out high school and college, was the Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook. I especially loved their veggie soup and banana bread recipes. Unfortunately somewhere in the last five moves, I've misplaced it. I know it's floating around here somewhere.
So I will talk about my other favorite. I started watching Julia Child when she was doing those PBS Master Chef shows in the 1990s, when I was in high school, and that was something I loved doing on Saturday afternoons. So when she came out with her Baking with Julia, which was actually written by now famous dessert/baker Dorie Greenspan, I had to get it. In fact, I specifically asked for it for Christmas in 1996. This book got me interested in baking and I've done my fair share over the years. There's just nothing like the smell and taste of fresh bread out of the oven, or for that matter homemade pie. Julia Child made me want to bake and share it with the world, because of her idea that anyone can cook. I have been a Julia fan ever since watching that show, and still am fascinated by her, especially after Julie & Julia came out and I had to read her biography My Life in France. Her time in France molded her into the chef that was to become and helped her earn her fame (though it came much later), after publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 & 2. Now I have only managed to cook one recipe out of this cookbook because even though has gorgeous pictures and fantastic recipes, created by Julia and other famous chefs, the recipes themselves are rather long and complicated. In fact, the only recipe I ever made in it was the one for French Bread, which took 6 hours and yes was the best bread I ever made. However, that recipe is ridiculously long, so I will be reproducing a different one for the purposes of this blog. I will use the recipe for Alsatian Onion Tart because it looked delicious and relatively easy to make, and something that I would be likely to try in the future.
Alsatian Onion Tart
Makes 4 servings.
The classic Alsatian onion tart - a flat, pizzalike galette covered to its very edge with meltingly tender soubise, a mix of onions and bacon - was once typical Sunday fare in Alsace. On their way to church, the locals would drop off their tarts at the village oven to have them baked while they prayed (for redemption, not dinner, one assumes). Those crusts were always rolled very thin so that they would bake quickly, but this can be made in any size, and the recipe multiplied without care.
About 1/2 pound puff pastry scraps, chilled
4 very large onions, peeled and diced
1 cup chicken broth (homemade or canned low-sodium)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 pound slab bacon
Preparing the Pastry: Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it is very thin, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Using the lid of a pot as a guide, cut the pastry with a very sharp knife into a circle 10 to 12 inches across. Transfer the rolled out pastry to an ungreased baking sheet and prick the dough all over, using either a docker or the tines of a fork. Go overboard with this--try arming yourself with a fork in each hand and playing out a lively tattoo on the dough--the docking, or pricking, will keep the pastry from puffing, just what you want for this tart. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. You can prepare the pastry up to 1 day ahead.
Making the Topping: Put the diced onions and the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, discarding any liquid, and let the onions cool. When the onions have cooled, stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. (Keep tasting--you may want to go easy on the salt because of the bacon.) Remove the rind from the bacon and cut the bacon into 1/4 inch cubes. Drop the cubes into a large pot of boiling water and boil for 1 minute, just to blanch them. Drain and rinse under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Heat a medium skillet over moderately high heat, toss in the bacon pieces, and cook, stirring, for just a minute or two--you don't want to overcook these or they will turn tough; season with pepper. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain well on paper towels. At this point, the topping can be covered and refrigerated for 1 day.
Assembling and Baking: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the pastry round from the refrigerator and top with the cooled onions, spreading the onions all the way to the edge of the pastry. Scatter the bacon pieces over the onions, pushing them down into the onions just a little (this will not only protect the bacon from burning, it will flavor the onions). Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.
Storing: Both the pastry and the topping can be made ahead, but the tart is at its best just baked.
Contributing Baker: Michel Richard