The last class with ‘my teenagers’ is fast approaching and as I look back, I see how much we have accomplished. I had hoped that they would come away with the beginning of a repertoire and I think they have. We decided what to make from week to week, and though that may have seemed like a scattershot approach, it worked. In the back of my mind I had a list of ten dishes that I would send my own kid out into the world with and we pretty much touched on all of them.
Here is my list and how it was accomplished:
1. A simple tomato sauce: the ten-minute version. Check.
2. How to cook pasta: we made gnocchi, an impressive start right out of the gate. Check.
3. Bread: we made scallion flatbreads and poppy seed naan with a dough that could also be shaped into a loaf. They also made dough in class and brought it home to shape and bake. And sticky buns!! Check
4. Soup: we made chicken stock and then asparagus-leek soup and Asian beef-noodle soup. Check.
5. Roast chicken: we made it with mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and a lemony pan sauce. Check.
6 & 7. At least two main courses in addition to roast chicken: we made chicken curry (and our own curry paste and powder) for something exotic, and broiled flank steak for a quick and dirty dish. Check
8. Salad and salad dressing: we made a basic vinaigrette, to go with pan bagnat, a kind of salad in a sandwich that combined bread baking, salad components and dressing. Check.
9. A special vegetable or potato dish: we made pommes anna to go with steak, beautiful! Check.
10. At least one good dessert. We made an apple tart, strawberry tarts and frozen yogurt. Check.
I loved the relaxed feel of our classes and the girls’ enthusiasm. They had enough interest to carry them—they barely needed me—and are already quite accomplished. Going out into the world is tougher than most high school seniors can imagine, and one would not want to burden them with too many caveats or tales of gloom and doom now. They are about to embark on a carefree and happy summer as they end one chapter and begin another. May they truly enjoy it and go forth into their new lives with confidence and ease. Of one thing I am sure: whatever they may encounter in the future will be fortified with the comfort of a good meal. And nothing, I mean nothing, says it better than a homemade apple tart.
Apple Custard Tart
Makes 1 9-inch tart
The No-Roll (!) Dough:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
4 ounces (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1. Beat the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse briefly to mix the ingredients. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse several times until the mixture looks evenly crumbly. Open the lid and dribble the egg yolk and water over the dry ingredients. Pulse the machine several times until the dough looks like wet crumbs, but does not yet clump together.
3. Tip the dough into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable rim and spread the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan. Use your fingers to press it evenly into the sides of the pan first, and then the bottom. If the dough seems sticky, cover the tart with a piece of plastic wrap and use a dry measuring cup to tamp it into place.
4 large apples, about 1 3/4 pounds
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup milk or cream
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon water
1.Heat the oven to 375°F. Line the tart pan as directed in tart dough above.
2.Peel and halve the apples and core them with a melon baller. Set two apples (4 halves) aside for the top of the tart and cut the remaining 2 apples in small (1/4-inch) cubes. Mix the chopped apples with 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla and spread them evenly over the bottom of the tart pan.
3.With the flat side down, cut the remaining apples in thin, half-moon slices. Lay the slices over the top of the tart in a circular pattern, overlapping them as you place them on the tart.
4.Bake the tart for 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven. Whisk the egg yolk, milk and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar together until thoroughly combined. Pour it over the apples and return the tart to the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the apples are golden brown. Let the tart cool for 20 minutes.
5.Mix the apricot jam and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat on full power for 1 minute in the microwave. Strain if necessary and brush the glaze over the cooled tart with a pastry brush.