There’s one thing deeply alluring about meals from the south of France. Recipes from the Midi are inclined to name for fundamental, elemental, easy-to-procure elements, however they’re elevated into unpretentious sophistication via a elegant juxtaposition of textures and flavors, aesthetic however unfussy methods, and loving consideration to element. Provençal meals is commonly rustic, farm-kitchen fare, however it’s additionally quintessentially French, meals you’ll be able to current with a flourish: Voilà!
Each southern French dish appears to have its magic, its alchemical secret or shock: consider a tian, vivid greens coiled like nested jewels, wealthy with cheese; or a clafoutis, that cake-custard amalgam holding tender ripe fruit suspended; or pissaladière, salty little anchovies and with candy caramelized onions, spiked with thyme, baked scorching and quick on a pizza crust.
Or take the Provençal apple tart, a buttery, crisp crust with sliced apples and sugar, nothing less complicated, and in case you wished to, you would depart it there: roll out your crust, organize apple slices on high, mud with sugar, and bake.
However in fact, this traditional recipe tucks two clever little methods up the cook dinner’s sleeve: the apples are scalloped in rows on the diagonal to provide the simplest tart a bakery-quality magnificence. And when it comes out of the oven, the apples are painted, shellacked actually, with an apricot jam-and-booze glaze that makes the entire thing sparkle and glow richly, like amber in daylight.
Right here in Taos, New Mexico, apricot season is over, and anybody who wished to protect this yr’s bounty for winter has already packed them in Mason jars. Now, the crabapple bushes that develop throughout our little adobe home are bursting with clusters of ripe crimson fruit. Curious to see what they tasted like, I picked one the opposite day and took a chew, anticipating dry bitterness. As a substitute, what I received was a juicy, sweet-tart little apple, scrumptious to the core.
In possession of some jars of the apricots our next-door neighbor put up for winter, I made a decision to make a Provençal apple tart. However not with our crabapples, that are too small. As a substitute, I purchased a bag of bigger Gala apples, sweet-tart and juicy, in addition to agency sufficient to face as much as baking. This felt in tune with the spirit of Provençal cooking, which makes use of no matter’s considerable throughout any given time of yr.
I made this tart on a heat, overcast afternoon, home windows open, rain coming, canines wandering out and in of the kitchen to see what all of the hubbub was about. I paid them no consideration: it is a surprisingly bodily recipe. Peeling and slicing the apples was an train in guide finesse: not my robust swimsuit, and my apples got here out a bit angular and irregular. However irrespective of.
Rolling out the stiff chilled dough gave my higher arm muscular tissues a very good exercise. Setting the slices of apple into the dough demanded dexterous endurance, and I used to be glad after I’d stuffed your complete giant rectangle as neatly as I may. As soon as the tart was within the oven, then got here my reward: stirring Grand Marnier with apricot jam, letting the concoction bubble right into a fumy, shiny glaze.
The tart emerged, buttery crust browned on the edges, the apples barely shrunken, their juices caramelized with the sugar. I painted them with glaze, vicariously channeling the pleasure of a farm spouse in Aix-en-Provence, making this humble tart shine.
I reduce it into beneficiant items and served it heat. The crust shattered into crisp buttery flakes. The glaze overlaid the clear, autumnal taste of apple with wealthy, boozy apricot, successful of late summer time on this time of seasonal change.
Provençal Apple Tart
(tailored from Ina Garten)
2 cups flour
1 T. sugar
Pinch of salt
12 T. butter, ice-cold and reduce into tiny items
½ cup ice water
5 medium tart-sweet apples (Granny Smiths are too tart and dry for this)
½ cup sugar
4 T chilled butter
3/4 cup apricot jam
2-3 T cognac, brandy, Grand Marnier, or triple sec
Make the crust:
Whisk collectively flour, sugar, and salt. Minimize butter into the flour combination, then combine into the flour with a pastry cutter or your arms. Utilizing a fork to combine, add the ice water slowly. You need to have a cohesive ball of dough: on a floured board, knead shortly, then wrap in plastic or parchment paper and refrigerate for half an hour.
Put together the apples:
Whereas the crust chills, peel and and core and quarter the apples, then slice into uniform wedges, 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.
Preheat the oven to 400 levels F.
Unfold a bit of parchment paper on a sheet pan. On a well-floured board, roll the chilled dough right into a rectangle, about 10 inches by 14 inches. Switch to the parchment paper.
On the dough, organize a row of apple slices diagonally, lengthwise, from one nook to the other nook. Proceed on both aspect of this row with extra diagonal rows, filling your complete crust and tucking smaller items in to fill gaps.
Mud the tart with the sugar and dot with the chilled butter. Bake for 45 minutes.
Put together the glaze:
When the tart is sort of prepared to come back out of the oven, press the apricot jam via a sieve to take away lumps and make it clean. In a small saucepan, mix jam and liquor and stir properly with a wood spoon. Simmer over a medium flame for a few minutes to let a lot of the alcohol burn off.
When the tart comes out, paint the apples with a pastry brush till the entire tart is glazed. Attempt to not glaze the crust.
Serve heat, by itself or with crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
Kate Christensen is a novelist, memoirist and meals author based mostly in Taos, New Mexico. This essay is the seventh in a month-to-month collection about French meals referred to as Bouffe, created and written completely for Frenchly by Kate Christensen. Her books, Blue Plate Particular, How you can Prepare dinner a Moose, The Final Cruise and extra will be bought right here, on Amazon. Her subsequent ebook, a novel, can be revealed in 2023.
All photographs are courtesy of the creator.