Lest you think that this entire blog will only feature sweet things, allow me to disabuse you of that notion immediately. James’ last show was Broadway’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Clybourne Park” and he helped host many pre-show Sunday brunches.
It was the day after opening, you see, and George Fullum, the house carpenter was anxious to know if the company would be having a potluck brunch backstage before the Sunday matinee. It’s a bit of a Broadway tradition – many theaters have a bagel or brunchy spread backstage on Sundays. That’s generally the last day of the week for theater folks, and brunch is a nice way to start the day off.
“Absolutely!” said James. “I’ll put a sign-up sheet on the board.” And “Clybourne Park” joined the Broadway brunch tradition.
No sooner had James taped the sheet to the wall than George signed up to bring bagels. (“Clybourne Park” didn’t have a traditional cork callboard but taped all information directly to a stairwell wall.) The whole cast and crew filled the sheet up before the end of the night, and the brunch menu was varied and opulent.
James made a Rustic Apple, Walnut and Gorgonzola Tart:
1 Pâte Brisée (tart dough) for a 10-inch tart (see all butter crust recipe) or 1 packaged, flat pie crust
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 large granny smith apples (or other good cooking apples such as jonagold or fuji), peeled, cored, chopped
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)
1. Toss the walnuts, gorgonzola, thyme, chopped apples, and maple syrup together in a medium size bowl. As you are working with the apples (chopping them, mixing them in with the other ingredients), if you want, you can squeeze a little lemon juice on them to help keep them from discoloring. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap while you prepare the crust.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pastry dough to 13-inches, at an 1/8 of an inch thickness. Place pastry dough on a rimmed baking sheet. (Rimmed because the pastry will leak butter during the cooking process.) Mound the filling in the middle of the rolled out dough, and spread out evenly to 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from the edge of the dough. Pleat the edges of the dough over the filling.
3. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until crust is nicely browned. If at any time it looks like the walnuts are getting a little burnt, you can lightly tent a piece of aluminum foil over the center.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. A pizza wheel works great for slicing up the tart.
All Butter Crust For Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée) Recipe
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water, very cold
1. If you are planning to make a pie crust, cut up a stick of butter into smallish (about 1/2-inch) cubes, and put it into the freezer. The colder the butter the better luck you’ll have with creating a flaky crust. Freeze the butter at least 15 minutes, better an hour, best overnight. Keep some cubed butter in the freezer ready to go for making pie crusts.
2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 times. Then add the other half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 more times. You should have a mixture that resembles a coarse meal, with many butter pieces the size of peas.
3. Add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold water (without the ice!) to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times. Then add more ice water, slowly, about a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again. Try to keep the water to a minimum. Too much water will make your crust tough.
4. Remove the crumbly mixture from the food processor and place on a very clean, smooth surface. If you want an extra flaky crust, you can press the heel of your palm into the crumbly mixture, pressing down and shmooshing the mixture into the table top. This is a French technique, called “fraisage”. Do this a few times, maybe 4 to 6 times, and it will help your crust be extra flaky. Then, use your hands to press the crumbly dough together and shape into a disc. Work the dough only enough to just bring the dough together. Do not over-knead or your crust will end up tough. You should be able to see little bits of butter, speckling the dough. When these bits of butter melt as the crust cooks, the butter will help separate the dough into flaky layers. So, visible pieces of butter are a good thing, what you are aiming for, in the dough. Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (At this point you can freeze the dough disk for several months until ready to use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
5. When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove the disk from the refrigerator and place on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take just enough of a chill off of it so that it becomes easier to roll out. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough.
Okay, wait, this was another sweet recipe. Check back soon for the quiche and deviled eggs recipes!