Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Charlie Trotter's Warm Apple-Date Tart with Honey-Caramel Sauce

The world of food lost one of it's most celebrated last week.  Charlie Trotter.   

I think because his restaurant carried his name, he was one of the first big time chefs on my radar.  When we lived in Detroit in the mid-90's I actually scheduled a weekend trip to Chicago for hubs and myself around when we could get a reservation there.  It wasn't easy and I was beyond excited.  Plus it was an excuse to go shopping for a new outfit!

I wish I could say it was a fabulous experience, but unfortunately it wasn't.  The food was beyond good, but we had the most rude, pretentious waiter and he totally ruined our night.  From that moment on, whenever hubs heard the name Charlie Trotter, his response would be "asshole".  Oops.

I don't blame Charlie.  I blame the waiter, who must have known he was being a dick because at the end of our meal, he took us back to the kitchen where Charlie Trotter, himself, shook our hand and thanked us for coming.  I'm sure he would have been mortified if he knew how pissed off we were.  He staked his reputation on service.

Because he was a completely self-taught chef and he left entirely too young, I wanted to pay my respects.   Due to our less than stellar experience that night in Chicago, it took me years before I ever bought a cookbook with his name on it, but last fall during our stay at the Inn at Little Washington, there was a copy of Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter in our room  I looked through it, liked it and ordered a copy when we got home.  Time heals all woulds!

This is why he was so celebrated.  It's a perfect balance of tart apples, sweet dates and just a hint of bitter from the caramel.  RIP Charlie.  You'll be missed.

Warm Apple-Date Tart with Honey Caramel Sauce
Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter

Tart Shell:
1 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons ice water

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/2 cups honey
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups pitted dates, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup flour
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/8 inch slices

To prepare the tart shell:  Using an electric mixer or by hand, combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl until pebble-sized balls form.  Combine the egg yolk and ice water in a small bowl, add to the flour mixture, and mix just until the dough comes together.  Remove the dough from the bowl, pat into a disk, and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.  On a floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick and then press it into a 9-inch tart pan, trimming any excess. Line the tart with parchment paper and fill with pastry weights or dried beans to prevent the dough from bubbling or shrinking.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven, let cool, and remove the weights and parchment.  Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, prepare the Caramel Sauce:  Bring the honey to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes or until dark golden brown.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cream very slowly.  Set aside.

Caramelizing honey can be tricky but the rich flavor that results is worth the effort.  Honey splatters as it cooks, so use a large pan with high sides to keep from getting burned.  When adding tyne cream, add a tiny bit at a time, or it will splatter out of control.  The best tip for making this is to wear oven mitts while cooking it.

To prepare the Tart:  Place 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a medium bowl, add the dates and toss.  Train any excess lemon juice.  Toss the dates with the flour and then arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the tart.  Spoon one-third of the caramel sauce over the dates.  Place the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a medium bowl, add the apples and toss.  Drain any excess lemon juice.  Starting in the center arrange the apple slices in a pinwheel pattern on top of the dates.  Brush with one-third of the caramel sauce.

Return the tart to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender.  Cool and then cut into 8 slices.  (I recommend placing the tart on a parchment lined baking sheet while baking, just in case there is any caramel seepage like I had!!)

Place a slice of tart in the center of each plate and drizzle the remaining caramel sauce over the tart and around the plate.  This would also be fab with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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