Please don't take the subtitle to mean that I consider myself to be a one-Michelin-starred chef. It's just that I was influenced to make this poached plum tart from browsing Gordon Ramsay's "Recipes from a Three-Star Chef", which has that inscription on the protective box. I doubt a star counts when you give it to yourself. But if I were to put down my actual star status, it would be No-Star Chef (and not even a chef), and if it just read "Chef" above my tart, you might think I'm talking about Lenny Henry's kitchen comedy. And if I were entirely honest about my non-chefness, it would read No-Star Nothing, or just nothing, and I'd have no subtitle.
But I will give myself one star for at least this piece of news: I passed the first step of my US Medical Licensure Exam! And not a bad score at that. I figured anyone who would care whether I passed or failed would be reading this blog. I just told my parents (left it to them to tell the family), and one friend, and one Internet friend. It's hard to gauge if your own friends might think you're a blowhard for being so excited about passing an exam they passed weeks or months ago (I'm the last among my friends to take the exam). Apparently there are people you'd give a kidney for, and somehow you still don't know whether they actually care about tiny details of your life. So I'm just putting it out here in the slight chance that you were worried about me.
Now, back to the tart: you might be wondering what I'm doing just browsing a cookbook/coffee-table book when I could just buy it and get it over with instead of coming back to the same dog-eared copy each time you visit the bookstore (er, I'm just kidding, I do handle it with care. It's still quite pristine). You see, for a giant cookbook, 3-Star Chef only has slightly more than 30 recipes, showcasing the exquisite taste of truffles, ceps, lamb, foie gras (I'm guessing), gold, and Fabergé egg omelets. It does have about 10 dessert recipes that look divine, but I've enough problems getting my own basic plated desserts off the ground here. That, and it costs at least P2800 ($62).
Here are a list of things I want that cost much, much less than that:
1. A cast-iron skillet P1050 ($23)
2. A tiny stovetop espresso maker P1700 ($38)
3. Digital instant-read thermometer with probe P1400 ($31)
4. Francois Payard's "Chocolate Epiphany" P1400 ($31)
5. Pichet Ong's "The Sweet Spot" P1200 ($27)
6. A microplane grater P700 ($16)
7. Petite dessert rings P415 each ($9.20)
And for a few hundred more:
1. Guitar Hero Les Paul Wireless Controller P3200 ($71)
2. Ben Sherman sweater ($73)
I'm not really a big-purchase guy. I like slowly eroding my savings away with small purchases like CDs, DVDs, ingredients, and old magazines. It looks like the most reasonable and probably useful thing I want up there is the skillet, though I'll be busy and away for a while in the future, so it's not so wise to buy it now. The reason I'm not so good with following up buying big-ticket items like that damned sweater is that half the time I'm thinking, "I can buy 3 cast iron skillets at these prices!" At least it keeps me from getting broke.
Besides, I've already ripped off the decorating techniques of Ramsay's pastry chef:
I didn't use this top view when I posted about my vacherin because the chocolate design became flaccid after 15 seconds of the summer heat.
Deeba tagged me to name a few songs that were currently stuck in my head in a good way (because: look at Ashlee Simpson's new video. Or not. Don't say I didn't warn you).
A Bad Dream by Keane - anti-war song. The faux guitar solo (it's a distorted Yamaha CP-60) at the end is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor, which can't be a bad thing.
Get Back by The Beatles - I realize it's slightly appropriate because it's about immigration (not that I'm immigrating, but it's kind of tangential). But it is a really catchy song.
Under Attack by ABBA - I'll admit I watched Mamma Mia! and it was okay. I actually like ABBA music, but mostly the non-hits. The layering of the vocals in the chorus is simple but it's damn catchy. By the way, this wasn't in the movie.
Knights of Cydonia by Muse - I heard this was supposed to represent the Four Horsemen, which is a tad creepy now that I think about it, but as long as we're talking about layering: listen to the overlapping guitar and keyboards. In the VERSES, no less. Muse's signature undulating chords are insane.
Crazy on You by Heart - I read that this song was written under the influence of mushrooms. I wonder how it ended up making sense. Nancy Wilson's opening acoustic solo is jaw-droppingly good.
Original Sin by Elton John - just a beautiful song about your first love. It makes me kind of starry-eyed and sad.
Yesterdays by Switchfoot - I was planning to use this song in a future post. If you don't feel anything after listening to the lyrics, you're a robot.
Poached Plum Frangipane Tart
The concept for this I derived from Recipes from a 3-Star Chef but I got the corresponding recipes for the crust and the frangipane from Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson's Tartine. The creme anglaise is from Flo Braker's Simple Art of Perfect Baking-- I used it because it doesn't call for any cream. The sauce is supposed to be plum sauce made from sieved poached plums in syrup, but I ran out of plums because I'm not made of money so I used just the syrup. Obviously it turned out too sweet, so we just skipped it for the rest of the servings. I barely had enough for a big 9" tart and a single tartelette. I'm glad because the photo of the big tart looks freakily neon-- I didn't stage the photo shoot well enough.
Flaky Tart Dough
Stir together the salt and water and maintain very cold. I made this dough by hand, but the principles are the same when making in a heavy-duty food processor. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and scatter the butter over. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until it forms large crumbs and some pieces of butter remain the size of peas. Add in the salt water and combine with a fork until the dough comes together into a rough ball. Shape into a disk 1 inch thick and wrap in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
Ideally you should be working in a very cold kitchen but I "developed" a method for lining a tart pan with a removable bottom very easily (actually it's from necessity-- the heat was making the dough too greasy, and you definitely don't want that to happen if you want a flaky crust). Grease the ring and bottom of a 9" tart pan. Working quickly, roll out the disk of dough from the center out in all directions (to ensure an even crust) over the removable bottom only until the dough circle is 1-1/2 inch larger than the removable bottom. Carefully lift the entire set-up (bottom and dough) and plop it onto the tart ring. Neatly and without stretching, drape the dough against the sides of the tart ring and roll the rolling pin over the edge to get rid of the excess. Chill the shell for at least an hour.
Coincidentally this is also Ramsay's recipe.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and salt until creamy, then add the sugar and almond meal and mix well to combine. Add the brandy and egg and mix well. Keep covered with cling film in the fridge until ready to use.
In a pot, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the plum wedges and poach for about 5 minutes. Leave to cool and store in the fridge. The longer you let them sit in the syrup, the redder they will become.
Set a rack in the middle third of the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Fill the chilled tart shell with an even layer of frangipane and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is set (a knife should come out clean), about 45 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature. Drain and arrange the poached plum wedges on top in a decorative pattern. Chill until serving time. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving.