Savory Potato Tart

A potato and herb tart

After last week’s Thanksgiving dinner, I was left with one Yukon Gold potato, one orange sweet potato and one white sweet potato – orphaned potatoes looking for a home. I thought about making something healthy – simmering them in the remaining turkey stock for an autumn soup (Yawn, Borrrrring!), but soon, I was dreaming about layering them with Gruyere and tons of herbs for a rich, French-style gratin – hmm, delicious and comforting, but more of a side dish than entrée. And then I hit upon the winning gilded-lily combination…

Why not take something as decadent as a potato gratin and encase it in a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, thyme-scented pastry crust? Oui!


Savory Potato Tart

A rich potato gratin encased in a flaky thyme-scented pastry.


Ingredients

    Tart Shell
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • Tart Filling
  • 2-3 potatoes, a mix of white and sweet, sliced very thin
  • ⅔ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and thyme. Combine canola oil and cream in a measuring cup. Pour oil mixture over flour mixture and mix well*. Place dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Transfer to pan and press dough into pan. Chill for 30 minutes while oven preheats to 400 degrees. Cover tart shell with parchment paper and fill with rice, beans, or pie weights. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove parchment and rice and bake another 10 minutes until tart shell is light golden. Remove from oven.
  2. Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the tart shell, followed by ½ of the cheese and ½ of the rosemary and sage. Follow with another layer of potatoes, cheese and herbs. Finish with a layer of potatoes.
  3. Whisk together egg, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over potato layers. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for an hour until potatoes are tender and golden brown and tart is bubbling. Cover with aluminum foil if top browns too quickly. Serve warm.

* This crust can be a bit crumbly. Don’t be afraid to mix it well to form a bit of structure.
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Cape Breton-Style Oatcakes

Cape Breton oatcakes are a simple, buttery, not overly-sweet, utterly addictive oat cookie.

Oatcakes

Wandering around my local cheese shop the other day, I came across something called Cape Breton oatcakes from Nova Scotia. They were advertised as a tea biscuit, cheese cracker, or a lightly sweetened cookie. Being a baker, it’s rare for me to purchase a package of store-bought cookies, but I was intrigued by something that could be called all three.

I bought a box to serve alongside an oozy hunk of triple-crème brie and fig jam…except the oatcakes never made it to the cheese plate. I broke into the package just to see what they tasted like – delicately crunchy, buttery, simple, slightly salty-sweet, and utterly addictive. I devoured the entire box in a matter of days.

In an attempt to replicate my new discovery, I found a number of Cape Breton oatcake recipes online, but none seemed to match the cookie (cracker?) I was trying to duplicate – some were thick, some were loaded with sugar (both brown and white), some made with shortening, many lumpy with whole oats. So, as I often do, I forged out on my own…


Cape Breton–Style Oatcakes

Cape Breton oatcakes are a simple, buttery, not overly-sweet, utterly addictive oat cookie.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups old-fashion rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon (rounded) kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In the bowl of food processor, pulse oats until the texture of meal. Add flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and process to combine. Add very cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add milk and process until dough just begins to come together. Turn dough out onto work surface and form into two balls. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Dust your work surface with flour and, working with one ball at a time, roll the dough out until ¼ inch thick. Cut with a 2 ½ inch round cutter or cut into squares. Transfer to baking sheets and refrigerate again for 10 minutes.
  4. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes until the edges are just beginning to turn golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container, if you don’t eat them all immediately.

Savory Beef Stew

This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings.  Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.”  Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.

A bowl of savory stew over a bed of polenta


Savory Beef Stew

  • Servings: 6 Servings
  • Print

This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings. Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.” Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chuck eye roast, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 1 bag frozen pearl onions, defrosted
  • 2 cups baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth (I use Pacific brand)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1 white sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 bunch chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the meat in batched in a bit of oil. Do not overcrowd pan. Remove meat and set aside. Add pearl onion, 1 cup baby carrots and chopped celery and sauté until vegetables are golden. Add tomato paste and flour and cook for a minute or two until a golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Add red wine, beef broth and instant coffee, scrapping up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring to boil, cover, and move to oven.
  2. Let stew simmered in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then add potatoes and remaining carrots. Let stew with potatoes simmer an additional 30 minutes then add chard. Return to oven and simmer an additional 30 minutes (total time 2 ½ hours).
  3. Remove from oven, defat liquid if needed. Add fresh sage, thyme, soy sauce and ground black pepper. Serve over polenta or egg noodles.

a dutch oven full of bubbling stew

Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

a beautifully decorated pear upside down cake

“…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
– Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

No riot of color or chilling air; October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Sunburnt leaves wither and suicide in golden sunlight without fanfare. Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of “prickly dread” and stopped time. Earthquake weather, we call it. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. This is autumn in LA.

Despite the warmth, autumn in my kitchen means roasts and stews – and desserts of pumpkin, apple or pear, like this autumn-inspired Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake.


Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

A buttery-rich cake topped with fresh pears and pecans.


Ingredients

    Topping
  • 2 Bosc pears, cored, peeled and cut into 12 slices each
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger

Directions

  1. Make Topping: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter a 9” cake pan and arrange pear slices in a pattern on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Bring 1 cup sugar and water to boil in a frying pan over high heat (not nonstick), reduce heat to simmer and cook, swirling, but not stirring until mixture caramelizes. When colored a medium brown, add pecans and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add bourbon and salt. Pour over pears. Note: At any place along the process, the caramel may seize and crystalize, just return it to the stove on a low heat and re-melt.
  3. Make Cake: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together unsalted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time; beating after each addition (I add a small tablespoon of the flour mixture after each egg to help avoid curdling). Beat in vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in remaining ½ cup pecans and crystalized ginger. Batter will be thick
  4. Spoon batter over pears, smoothing and spreading evenly. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes, invert cake on a serving platter and cool until slightly warm.

Autumn Apple Cake

Apples, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins capture autumn in this moist Bundt cake. Coffee cake? Snack cake? Impressive post-meal dessert? It works for all three – you decide.

Autumn Apple cake on a bed of fallen leaves

Autumn in L.A.

Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.”  L.A. subtly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.


Autumn Apple Cake

Adapted from Richardson’s Canal House Inn apple raisin cake.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dark spiced rum
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into ½” dice
  • Glaze and Icing
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. Combine golden raisins and rum in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and drained golden raisins. Spoon batter into pan.
  3. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar and honey and heat on medium until sugar is completely melted and glaze is thickened and bubbling. Brush over top and sides of cake. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze and drizzle over cake. Serve plain of with sweetened whipped cream

Sliced Autumn Apple Cake