Cooking out of our league – Paris this isn’t

The impression left on me by the Endive Tatin with Goat Cheese at L’Epi Dupin in Paris was so great that I got Brian a book for Christmas with the recipe (The Bistros, Brasseries, and Wine Bars of Paris: Everyday Recipes from the Real Paris). We bought the best ingredients we could find at Whole Foods, a bottle of Cote du Rhone and got started.It looked a bit daunting, but Brian’s a willing and tanlented home chef, so for our New Year’s Eve meal, we set about making the dish. First mistake – because this was a starter when we had it in Paris we decided to make it a starter here, as well, and for our second course a dish out of Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home – Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Citrus Vinaigrette. Too much to attempt all at one time, even here in our early “we’re cooking with gas, wheeeeee!’ phase.The endive went well enough despite never having prepared it before. Peel off the icky outside bits, separate the leaves and boil, boil, boil.It started getting tricky with the crust. Instead of a nice smooth circle it ended up several clumps barely hanging on to one another.

The construction of this dish is meant to be a play on tarte tatin, an upside down apple pie. The crust goes on top for baking and then is flipped for presentation.

OK, we thought, it goeson bottom so no big deal if it’s not actually what you’d call something resembling a crust. We never claimed to be a pastry chef.

Making caramel for the Endive Tatin with Goat CheeseWe read the instructions for making caramel. Simple enough. Cook butter and sugar till creamy. First it will harden and separate, then come back together said the book. No indication of how long this might take though. We stirred and stirred and finally noticed it separating. It stayed like a long long time, getting browner and browner, then finally began thickening. Atthis point it was a deep dark brown. We decided totaste it. A burnt thumb and tongue confirmed it was caramel, albeit burnt.

It became tricky here. We have only one round mold so only one caramel base could be poured and set at a time. I had to keep the remained pourable by stirringit over the simmer burner (burning it even more in the process).

OK, so caramel first, then layer the endive, then crumble the goat cheese (at least we didn’t mess that up) and top with the sad little crust. Into the oven for 20 minutes at 350. The one in the mold did so-so. The one without? Well, we’ll not use that pie tin any more, as the caramel that spread all over is enameled on.

Mise en place for Endive Tatin with Goat CheeseWhile simultaneously boiling the butternut squah raviolio, makingthe vinaigrette for the ravioli and wilting spinach for the ravioli, we somehow bombed on the honey sauce for the tatin. Honey, corinader, dijon, red wine and water are meant to come just to a boilthen simmer for five minutes, then whisk in olive oil. It somehow ended up a thin watery stream, not the thick oozy rich sauce on my plate in Paris. It was a mistake to ladle it over my tatin, for it resulted in a soggy crust.

The dinner was edible, just – the butternut squash with freshly ground cinammon and nutmeg was lovely, though the wonton raviolis seemed to be too much ravioli, not enough filling. The tatins – Brian’s was hopelessly deconstructed. He managed to pock out some of the goat cheese. Mine was slightly better though I couldn’t manage the soggy crust.

I’m left with an ever greater appreciation for the skill of the kitchens in the places we travel to. The tatin was just *one* course of three we ate that night. How the chefs and cooks manage what they do is nothing short of magitc. We were cooking for just the two of us. They do this all night for a packed house, consistently turning out food so dreamy that a couple Americans weeks later and thousands of miles away would subject themselves to this rather humiliating exercise in an attempt to replicate it.

I just need to go back to Paris.

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5 responses to “Cooking out of our league – Paris this isn’t

  1. My grandmother’s secret to a perfect pie crust? Make it the same way, with the same ingredients, using the same utensils 100 times. After that, you’ve got it.

    She had the same advice for biscuits.

    Or as my friend Becky says, “Remember that cooking is two parts chemistry, one part art.”

  2. Not a pastry chef – hee!

    The answer is always “go back to Paris.”

    We had an herbed tart that would melt your heart at L’Avili. I’m fairly certain I will never try to replicate it at home, though. I’m a lazy home chef.

  3. Hey Dana…..looks yummmy I hope you both had great holidays. I’m finally back to work and on the mend from pneumonia. My holidays were actually quite nice although very quite!

  4. reminds me of the time we ate the army c rations when dinner was a flop when you were about 12 or so. Remember?

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