Monday, March 27, 2006

Stealing Recipes

Debate at the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters got me thinking about the legendary stolen recipes of France. Legend has it that at the turn of the 20th century, the famous signature dessert served at a certain small town hotel along a businessman's travel route in the Loire Valley was so innovative and delectable that the chef of Maxim’s in Paris, after having passed through and tasted it, decided, when he failed to obtain the recipe himself, to send a spy there to observe in the kitchen and bring back the goods for him. Who knows why he didn't get the recipe himself. Perhaps he didn't think of asking for it at the time, perhaps it was considered bad form in those days to ask, perhaps he asked and was refused. No one knows.
The spy, presenting himself as a gardener, was successful in observing all of the details of the legendary tarte’s preparation. He was also sucessful in transferring that information to the kitchen at Maxim's. Once the technique and ingredients had been tested and approved as the correct recipe, the chef put it directly on the menu, and the tradition of serving it at Maxim’s has been maintained ever since. What did he call it? Tarte des demoiselles Tatin, in honor of its creators, the Tatin Sisters, proprieters of the hotel Tatin.

Recipe: Tatin d'endives aux saucisses de Montbéliard

In the past few decades, the technique of caramelizing the contents of a tarte in the manner of the Tatin sisters has been applied to a myriad of ingredients, sweet and savory alike, and it has become common practice to call this type of tarte a Tatin. While thinking of the innovative chefs at the restaurants in Chicago and New York that had their recipes slavishly reproduced down to the very last molecule without being given the courtesy of attribution, I used up the last of this season’s endives to prepare a Tatin d'endives aux saucisses de Montbéliard. I attribute the idea of this dish to Klary Koopmans, an eGullet member residing in the Netherlands, who cooked up endives from her aunt and uncle's basement the other night for dinner, to the French food journalist Thierry Rousillon, who recited a recipe for a tatin d'endives on the radio three weeks ago, and to Julia Child, who taught me the preliminaries and details of braising endives, the first steps of which I executed before sprinkling them with sugar, flipped them sugar side down, and caramelized them for the base of the tarte. The idea for using the sausages came from two sources, a mention of them in the magazine Regal from two months ago, where they warned us not to confuse la Morteau and la Montbéliard, and my butcher, who had the little beauts on prominent display near his register. Here's how to make it.

1 batch of Pâte Brisée
3 beligian endives
1 montbéliard sausage or any small smoked uncooked sausage you have handy. Bacon will do in a pinch.
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tableshpoon duck fat (or butter)
salt and pepper
juice of one half lemon
1/4 cup water
about 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar

- Prepare your pastry and place it in the refrigerator to chill.
- Wash, remove any damaged leaves from the endives, cut off the foot base and slice the endives in half. With a sharp knife, cut out the conical inner wedge near the base of the endive, which can be very bitter.
- Heat the butter and duck fat in a large sautee pan, spread the endive halves cut side up in the hot fat, and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt.
- Pour the water into the side so that it sizzles on the bottom. Quickly reduce the heat to about medium and cover, simmering slowly for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the cover, sprinkle the cut side of the endives with sugar, and turn the endives sugar side down. Raise the heat a notch and let the remaining fluid evaporate and the sugars to start to caramelize.
- preheat the oven to about 400F/200C.
- When the cut side is sufficiently brown, remove the pan from heat.
- Butter a tarte pan and lay the caramelized endives brown side down in the pan.
- Slice the sausage into 1/8 inch slices and lay it all over the endives.
- Roll out your batch of pate brisee to about 1 inch larger than the top of the tarte pan.
- Lay the rolled pastry on top of the endives and sausage.
- Pierce the pastry with a fork all over and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- When you bring it out of the oven, place your serving dish top side down over the tarte dish, and invert it to turn the tarte out onto it's dish. Serve it hot out of the oven.



Blogger AdriBarr said...

I just love that story! And what a terrific recipe. Thanks!

6:50 PM, December 30, 2012  

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