Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday Supper: Ca Kho Tieu Mahi Mahi and Apple Tart

No matter what kind of pastry you use there are two basic rules that really pay off. Use butter, always use butter being sure to leave chunks of it in the dough so it will melt when baked and leave you with a sinfully flaky buttery crust. Secondly always chill your dough, I've even read fruit pic recipes where you place the uncooked fruit in uncooked pie shell and freeze it for an hour then put it directly into the oven. These two things will guarantee you a crust. Pie dough or pate brisee recipes are all more or less the same some use an egg yolk so use sugar some use more ice water. Find one you like and works for you and stick with it.

Increasingly I don' think if you are making a fruit pie you need to add sugar to the crust. The recipe below I got from my new favorite cook book A Platter of Figs by David Tanis who is the head Chef six months of the year at Chez Panisse. For whatever reason all roads lead to Chez Panise for me. I love their honest simple approach to food with an emphasis on fresh seasonal local ingredients.

The entire tart recipe is from his book, I've already used the pastry recipe to make pear mincemeat tartlets and the results were super. It has just become my favorite all purpose pastry dough.

Apple Tart
(adapted from David Tanis's book A Platter of Figs)

In a mixing bowl add 2 cups of all purpose flower (Kind Arthur is my favorite) 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, with your hands mix until the flour is incorporated, but there are still chunks of butter. The instruction in the book is to cut the butter into thin slices, I find by just using the stick of butter whole and breaking it down as I go I end up with a better chance of still having chunks of butter in the dough at the end (which is the goal) the thinly sliced butter melts and incorporates easier and leaves you with a more consistent (which in this case is not the point) dough. Up to you.

In a measuring cup add one large egg and fill with ice cold water until the total amount is 1/2 cup, stir into the dough and mix until you have a roughly formed sticky ball. Do this quickly - don't over process it. Sprinkle with a little extra flour and form into a rectangle (this will be enough for two tarts) wrap and place in the fridge (I use parchment) for an hour or more or even over night.

Divide the pastry in half and roll out one piece on a sheet of parchment (using a sprinkling of flour to prevent sticking to the rolling pin). The idea is to make a rectangle that will fit just inside a standard cookie sheet ( 15 1/2 x 10 1/2) mine tend towards the smaller side I'd say 13 x 8 ish. I tuck under the ends to make it more uniform, but think that a "free form" look to a tart like this is just fine. When you are happy with the way your dough rectangle looks cover it with another sheet of parchment and put it back in the fridge.

In a pot add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, add to this the cores and peel of all 5-6 apples you are about to peel and core. Then bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for a good 15 minutes until it has thickened, strain and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Slice the apples thinly, take the dough out of the fridge and stack the apples in overlapping rows like cards onto the pastry (see pictures). Sprinkle with 2 T of sugar.

Place the into the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove from the freezer and place in the bottom third of the oven for about 45 minutes, turning once at the half way point. Cooking pastry on a pizza stone is a great way to prevent soggy bottomed fruit pies! Remove from the oven when the apples and pastry have browned. Brush the glaze over the the entire pastry. I usually end up with extra. Serve warm or at room temperature with some unsweetened whip cream.

A few days ago I did a post about chocolate mousse (which I just updated today) and several readers commented on the dragonfly ware as I like to call it and Skip and Chris even gave a link to a Vietnamese Food Blog which featured a recipe for Ca Kho To (or Tieu as it is also sometimes written, transliteration from Vietnamese to English is a tricky thing).

Funny thing about the dragonfly ware is that I used to sell it when I owned my SE Asian housewares stores, I even went to the factory outside of Hanoi in this really amazing town they has been making pottery for 500 years, everywhere you look there is a huge kiln! I made sure to put aside a set for us before I sold it all. In the end when I closed my store I ended up with a bunch of odds and ends which is how I ended up discovering that covered sugar bowls are also great individual serving dishes for chocolate mousse!

The Vietnamese fish dish sounded so good I wanted to try it! Also it was a great opportunity to use the dishes. After reading several recipes I made several modifications in order to minimize the use of packaged goods and to make it a little but more western friendly

Ca Kho Tieu

A traditional slow cooked fish dish with a peppery sweet sauce that usually incorporates a fish cut on the diagonal (think Salmon Steak) with the skin and bone still in tact. Cooked on top of the stove in a clay pot.

For my version I recommend using a cast iron skillet and a thick cut, boneless, skinless Mahi Mahi (wild caught) which is an oily, fairly sustainable and at this moment reasonably price fish (It was $9 a pound).

I had some questions about the amounts used in the recipe that was my inspiration for this dish from the Ravenous Couple Blog

In particular as I was entertaining someone who was pepper/spice sensitive I felt 1 Tablespoon of black pepper was a lot especially for just 1 pound of fish. So I reduced it to 2-3 teaspoon for 2 pounds of fish, extra can always be added by the individual diner.

In a pot combine 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup palm sugar (or brown sugar) bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cook for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken (when a drop is placed in cold water it should form a soft ball). Stirring occasionally. Once thick take off the heat

While this is cooking roughly chop: 4 garlic cloves, 2 large shallots (about 1/3 cup) the rind of one lemon (yellow part only avoid as much of the pith as possible) and 1 Tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, place in a bowl and add 1/2 cup of fish sauce add all of this to the thickened sugar syrup, stir to mix and set aside.

Rinse 2 lbs of boneless, skinless, Mahi Mahi (or what ever fish you are using) under cold water and pat dry, cut it into large portions and place it in a large dish, rub 2-3 teaspoons of freshly grated black pepper over the fillet then coat them with 4 Tablespoons of organic peanut oil.

Trim and clean 6-8 scallions (spring onions) chop on the bias into 1" pieces, reserve a handful for garnish.

Heat your dry skillet over high heat, when a drop of water sizzles and evaporates your ready to add the fish fillets. Sear each side for 1-2 minutes then quickly add the fish sauce mixture, let it boil up then turn the heat down to medium and add the scallions. Stir to incorporate and simmer for about 20 minutes, if the sauce threatens to get too thick add a little more water.

The fish should be tender but not falling apart. Serve with rice and a simple steamed green like Shanghai Bok Choy. Super Yummy! The menu this Wednesday was the Vietnamese Mahi Mahi, Brown Basmati Rice Steamed Shanghai Bok Choy with the apple tart with shipped cream for dessert.

Black pepper, finely chopped de-seeded fresh Thai pepper and fish sauce can all be served as condiments.

I wanted to do a product shot, but got carried a way a little bit as there is no soy sauce in the recipe!

Please note that the picture above was taken mid dinner party so I had forgotten to garnish with reserved scallion (I had actually forgotten to reserve the scallion) and I did not reduce the water/sugar mixture so the dish as it appears here is more saucy then my recipe would suggest. It was however, delicious and the sauce was delicious with the rice and bok choy. The goal is have the liquids of the dish reduce down to make more of a thick sauce/glaze, but lets face it anywhere on the continuum is fine as it all tastes great and ultimately comes down to personal taste and aesthetics.

1 comment:

AVL Chris+Skip said...

Wow! Look at your showing off all that beautiful dragonfly bling! So cheerful, like Vietnam... and SUMMER. What a pleasant surprise to read of your Hanoi forays. That's a place we hope to continue retuning to. We've wanted to go to a ceramics factory but never get around to it...probably just as well, w're pottery sluts.

The Ravenous Couple blog is the other food blog I follow most. Beautiful stuff.

Have been thinking a lot about Vietnamese clay pot dishes, especially those with a 'caramel' base. Something very comforting 'bout them. Your recipe looks divine. It's on the list...

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