"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tarty Tuesdays: bacon, apple, and Tasmanian Blue pie

Yes, I have been writing, and yes, I have been cooking, but I have not been writing about cooking.  It’s been a while, but I’ve been busy, even if some of my endeavours have been… shall we say… frivolous.

Japanese-style potato salad with a garnish that made strange but perfect sense.

Although I was dragged kicking and screaming back into the training kitchen at work, I was delighted to suddenly remember that teaching people how to cook means I can now buy cooking-related stuff for teaching resources and claim it on my tax.  So yes, OK, I bought a gadget that turns a boiled egg into a bunny, but I’ve also been buying things that are entirely useful.

Let me introduce you to Harold.

Harold – or, as it is properly known, the Harold Pie Crust Maker – has come into my life to end another cooking-related bane:  Rolling Pastry Into a Perfect Circle.

'Allo, 'Arold!

Oh, it’s a pain.  Not just the mess – mess I can cope with, as befits a woman who has messed up her kitchen doing everything from shucking 200 corn cobs for freezing to making her own tofu every week – but getting the circle right, without tearing-and-patching, without wonky bits, and without having to trim.  Harold puts an end to all that.  Pop your ball of pastry or dough in the floured bag, zip ‘er up, and roll away.  A minute or two later, you have your perfect circle.  Last week when I was on holidays and playing Happy Hausfrau and making stuff to pop in the freezer, I made five 35cm crusts in 15 minutes, which included the time spent making the pastry.

I took two of them out today, and set about making an awesome vehicle for the Heritage Blue cheese that had reached peak ripeness and wouldn’t see another few days.  I remembered, back in the 80s, making an apple, bacon and blue cheese tart out of Australian Gourmet (before it wedded Traveller), but I couldn’t be fizzed leafing through back issues, so I just decided to make it up as went along.  

Just before the tossing the bacon back in the pan.  Tossing things together for a minute or so over a higher heat is what Marcella Hazan calls "insaporire" - "make tasty".  It's almost always a good idea to toss things with the sautéed aromatics before going ahead with the recipe.

Blurry pic, but it's clear just how delicious this is going to be.  See the little fresh thyme leaves?  Doesn't it make you wanna go out and plant some herbs?  Well, it should.  No, really:  YOU SHOULD.

Then along came my professional photographer husband and took the only good picture of the batch.  Sigh...
Anyway, if your filling is too thick to pour, you can slacken it with milk, but just a tad.  A couple tablespoons to a quarter cup, tops.

It was a tight fit, so I didn't crimp together top and bottom.  The pie held together fine, and had extra give which was awesome since the filling had a soufflé thing going on and rose quite high during baking.  It fell dramatically when I took it out of the oven, but it's still higher than it started out.

Because as you know, you don’t really need a recipe to make a tart.  For that same reason, I'll also tell you that this pie is also very, very delicious made with pears, or pears and apples half-and-half.


250g. bacon, cut into thin strips
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
Fresh thyme
140g. Tasmanian blue cheese, such as Heritage, or other smooth and rounded blue cheese (stay away from the harsh Danish stuff)
4 eggs
300ml. sour cream
Freshly ground pepper
2 x recipe Nidia's Tart Crust, or enough shortcrust pastry for a double crust
2 tbsp. dried breadcrumbs or flour (opt.)

What you do:
1.  Preheat oven to 180oC.  Grease tart pan or brush with Baker's Secret.  Lightly oil a heavy sauté pan.  Cook bacon over low heat until it is soft and fat has rendered out.  Do not allow to crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2.  In same pan, sweat onion, celery and apples until tender but not mushy.  Add bacon and thyme, and toss over medium heat for a minute or so.
3.  In a medium bowl, mash blue cheese, then add eggs, sour cream, and freshly-ground pepper to taste.  Combine well.
4.  Line tart pan with crust, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs or flour.  (This step is optional, but you may want to consider it since the filling can get juicy due to variables in the bacon and the fruit.)  Spoon in bacon mixture and spread evenly.  Pour over blue cheese mixture, spreading it as evenly as you can.  Top with second crust.  Brush with eggwash, and bake until crust is golden and filling is set.  

Yumbo McGillicutty!

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