Thursday, April 30, 2015

Soup for a Cool Spring Day…Minestra Verdissima



We are having one of the most beautiful Spring seasons in my recent memory.  There have been no late freezes to nip back the early blooming bulbs, trees and shrubs….and we haven’t had a lot of the unseasonably hot days that tend to force the cool season flower progression into warp speed.   Spring has been long, mild and delightful.  We have probably had what many people would consider too many cool, cloudy and damp days….but I don’t mind them at all.  They encourage all the lovely blooms to linger and they have a calm, quiet beauty that forces you to take time…and look …and absorb.  And they make the sunny days seem all the more lovely.


This past weekend we were cool enough that it was downright chilly.  As the day progressed I became hungry for a warming bowl of soup.  Since I had a batch of freshly made arugula pesto on hand, the soup that immediately came to mind was a Spring soup called Minestra Verdissima….or “a very green soup”.  Minestra Verdissima is a light minestrone made with all green Spring and early Summer vegetables.  Like minestrone it is finished with pesto…usually arugula or spinach pesto since these are both abundant in the Spring. 


Because I didn’t have all of the traditional ingredients on hand, I decided to improvise a little…using what I had on hand (going to the grocery store on a Sunday isn’t my idea of fun).  For the soup base, I used a bunch of the spring onions I had purchased at Saturday’s farmers market.  If I hadn’t had them, I could have used onion or, even better, leek.  Most recipes for Minestra Verdissima are finished with the addition of some cooked shell beans or rice or small pasta….or some combination thereof.  But instead of adding these at the end, I decided to follow Judy Roger’s method for a delicious asparagus and rice soup in her Zuni Café Cookbook: she cooks the rice in the water which ultimately becomes the soup’s broth.  And since I had some pink-eyed peas in my freezer (frozen during the height of the season last summer) I decided to add these along with the rice rather than adding the more traditional cooked dried beans at the end. 


Pink-eyed Peas from the market...last August.
I always purchase extra for the freezer...

For the remaining additions, I again simply used what I had:  Asparagus (from the market) and English peas (like the pink-eyed peas, socked away in my freezer last summer).  I chose again to follow Judy Roger’s lead and stew the asparagus and peas in a bit of fat (I used butter, but if I had had some pancetta, rendering it and cooking the vegetables in the rendered fat would have been a delicious way to go) before adding them to the soup when the pink-eyed peas and rice were done cooking. 


You could of course just add the raw vegetables to the soup during the last five to ten minutes of cooking, but I think you get a richer vegetable flavor if you cook the vegetables in some fat first.  (Don’t forget to rinse out the pan the asparagus and peas have been cooked in with some of the soup broth…you don’t want to lose any of the flavor.)

I imagine it is obvious, but I want to point out that this soup can be made with almost any combination of green vegetables that you have on hand:  Artichokes….fennel…green beans….zucchini….broccoli…and of course, asparagus and English peas.  Simply cut your chosen vegetable in uniform (smallish) pieces and add them at an appropriate moment—stewing the artichokes and fennel for perhaps 20 minutes or so (until almost tender) before adding the other, more yielding, green vegetables.   The idea is to achieve a soup that is a tapestry of greens… 


with touches of ivory, white or beige from the additions of pasta, beans, rice…or even farro or diced potatoes.  The pesto…swirled in at the table…is the crowning touch.  It magically turns the soup a vibrant spring green….


Over the years I have come to believe that eating seasonally is about so much more than eating what the earth around me is currently producing.  It also has to do with (among other things) eating foods that are in sync with the weather and my mood.  On Sunday I was hungry for a homey soup because of the chill in the air and the slow, lazy pace of my afternoon.  But while a hearty, traditional minestrone might have seemed perfect, to me it would have seemed jarring with its bold flavors and deep colors.  But my little minestra was just perfect.  It was filled with ‘seasonal’ produce… was warm and soothing to ward off the chill in the air….and was at the same time permeated with the subtle vibrancy of a cloudy and cool spring day.



Minestra Verdissima


2 T. unsalted butter (or olive oil)
5 or 6 spring onions, halved and thinly sliced (white and pale green only) to make 1 cup—substitute thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green only), or finely diced onion, if spring onions aren't available
1/4 to 1/3 c. Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 c. frozen shell beans (pink-eyed peas, crowder peas, lady peas, etc.)
3 1/2 to 4 c. water or light chicken stock
1 T. unsalted butter (or olive oil)
4 oz. trimmed asparagus, cut into 1/4-inch lengths on a short diagonal (a generous cup)
1/2 cup English peas (fresh or frozen)
Arugula (or Spinach) pesto, room temperature


Heat 2 T. butter in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat.  Add the spring onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until very tender and translucent—about 5 minutes (leeks or onions will take 10 to 15 minutes…don’t shortcut this step).  Add the rice, shell beans and 3 1/2 cups water (or stock) and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the rice and beans are  tender (about 15 minutes). 

About 10 minutes before the rice and beans are done, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the asparagus and peas along with a pinch of salt, stirring to coat the vegetables in the butter.  Let the vegetables gently sizzle until they are tender, stirring occasionally.   

When the rice/beans are cooked, scrape the asparagus and peas into the soup.  Swirl a ladleful of the broth around the sauté pan to get all the flavorful bits and add it back to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and let simmer for a minute or two to allow the flavors to blend.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  If the soup seems too “crowded” with vegetables, add more water or stock.

Ladle the soup into bowls and place a dollop of pesto in the center of each bowl, allowing each person to swirl the pesto into their soup at the table.  Pass more pesto on the side if you like.

Serves 3 or 4. 

Notes & Variations:
  • Recipe is easly doubled, tripled, etc. 
  • When making this soup, carefully season at each step. Because it is subtle and mild, it will taste bland if not seasoned well. 
  • Add a couple of ounces of minced pancetta. To add, place the pancetta in the sauté pan and cook until rendered and beginning to crisp—adding some olive oil or butter only if the pancetta is very lean. When the pancetta is rendered, add the asparagus and peas and proceed with the recipe. 
  • As noted in the post this soup can be made with many combinations of starches and green vegetables…I like the soup best when the total quantity of cooked starches (rice, potatoes, beans, pasta) is roughly the same as the quantity of green vegetables…with maybe a little more green vegetable than starch….. 
  • You may use leftover/previously cooked rice or beans (and of course, pasta…choose something small, like soup shells or orzo…). To do this, add the green vegetables to the cooked onion, cooking until just tender before adding water or broth. Bring the broth to a simmer and then add the cooked grain, beans or pasta (adding any bean cooking liquid you might have along with the beans). Bring back to a simmer and serve.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Spring Salad…Arugula, Mint, Beets & Asparagus…dressed with Orange Vinaigrette

Spring salad.  ….Two little words that conjure up images of exactly what I’m craving this time of year:  the light and fresh greens—and green vegetables—of the new season at the farmers’ market.  I have been visiting my Farmers’ market now for almost a month.  And although the offerings are still a bit thin, I have been able to find all of the ingredients I need to make one of my favorite spring salads….arugula with beets and asparagus. 


I first ran across this unusual combination of beets and asparagus years ago in an article in Bon Appétit featuring representative dishes from the various regions of the French countryside.  I have made this salad many times over the years…and I am always struck by how good it tastes.  If you are dubious, I encourage you to give it a try.  The original salad included hazelnuts…but I sometimes replace them with walnuts or pistachios.  Often I add olives…or goat cheese…but the salad is delicious without them.  I don’t remember what kind of vinaigrette was on that original salad, long ago I discovered that an orange vinaigrette (and a handful of fresh mint) lights up this flavor combination better than just about anything else. 


You can make an orange vinaigrette with fresh orange juice and orange zest, but you get a more intense flavor…and better emulsification….if you reduce the orange juice down to a thick syrup.  Reducing the juice is easy…it just takes a bit of patience.  The temptation to boil it rapidly is great, but usually results in a scorched or caramelized reduction.  The best results are achieved by bringing the orange juice to a boil and then reducing the heat to very low and patiently letting the juice reduce.  The liquid doesn’t really even have to simmer…it just needs to steam.  Occasionally, run a heat proof rubber spatula around the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure that none of your precious reduction is sticking to the sides and burning.  Your goal is a thick syrup….you will get a generous 2 tablespoons of reduction from 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup of fresh juice.  Towards the end of the cooking, watch it very carefully—even over low heat, it will eventually scorch if allowed to cook too long.


When I made this salad last week, I was unable to find Valencia oranges....which I prefer because they produce abundant, sweet juice.  Instead I purchased a couple of Honeybell tangerines (also known for their abundant, sweet juice).  


The tangerine vinaigrette was excellent.  Since the availability of citrus fruits is quite variable this time of year, you should purchase whatever member of the orange/tangerine family you are able to find that is juicy and sweet.  When you make the vinaigrette, take the time to make a full batch.  Since it is delicious on all kinds of ingredients (not just beets and asparagus), I can’t imagine that it will go to waste.   Shaved fresh fennel…raw and cooked carrots….poached artichokes…fresh peas…. all are  delicious dressed with this vinaigrette. 

The vinaigrette itself takes well to all kinds of additions and variations.  Sometimes I add Dijon…   sometimes a few minced shallots or spring onions.  As far as the choice of vinegar is concerned, you have many options.  I prefer something with a lighter color—champagne, white wine, white/golden balsamic…or, going a bit darker, sherry.  But a little red wine vinegar…or even a small amount of balsamic would be fine.  Minced fresh tarragon and mint are nice additions too…as is a little toasted and ground fennel or coriander seed. 

When I made this salad last, I had intended to serve it garnished with a few wedges of hard cooked egg.  (I had on hand some very fresh eggs—a lovely gift from a couple of women who attend my classes and who keep a flock of hens.)  But while the eggs were cooking, I decided I wanted something more substantial, so I made egg salad instead…and spread it on crisp little toasts.  It was the perfect touch.  


I would give you the recipe….but I honestly don’t have one.  I have been making egg salad since I was tall enough to reach the counter.  I never measure….and I still make it the same way I always have…chopped hard cooked egg, enough mayonnaise to make it creamy, and mustard, salt and pepper to taste.  At some point in time I graduated from yellow mustard to Dijon…but it is delicious either way.  This last time, I added a smidge of minced spring onion…and a sprinkle of chives.  Although neither is necessary…egg salad should be all about the eggs.

I love this time of year.  The light… the colors… the new growth all around…  and the beginning of the market season.  If you have not made your way to your market yet, I hope you will soon.  You can’t help but be inspired.  While you’re there, be sure and pick out some beautiful greens….mint (if you don’t have your own little patch)…some asparagus….a few beets….and some local eggs…. 




Spring Salad of Arugula, Mint, Beets & Asparagus
with Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 lb. Beets, scrubbed & stemmed
Red wine or Balsamic vinegar, to taste
3/4 lb. Asparagus, tough ends trimmed
Orange Vinaigrette (below)
Several fresh mint leaves, torn or cut into a wide chiffonade
4 small handfuls arugula, stemmed
1/3 c. pistachios, toasted & coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place the beets in a roasting pan and add a quarter inch of water.  Cover the pan with foil and roast the beets in a pre-heated oven until they are tender all the way through—30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and age of the beets.  When the beets are cool enough to handle (although they should still be a bit warm), trim the roots and stems off and gently rub the skins off using a paper towel.  Leave baby beets whole; cut medium-sized beets in wedges; dice large beets.  Toss the beets with red wine or balsamic vinegar to taste.  Set aside.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil.  If the asparagus are very fat, peel the lower 2/3 of each stalk.  Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until just tender.  Drain and refresh under cold running water.  Pat dry and set aside.  (If you are serving the salad right away, simply spread the drained asparagus on towels to cool slightly and steam dry.)

To serve the salad:  Treating each separately, season the beets and asparagus with salt and pepper and dress with the vinaigrette.  Arrange attractively on individual plates or a platter.  Place the arugula and mint leaves in a bowl.  Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and season with salt & pepper.  Gently toss to make sure all of the leaves are lightly dressed with the vinaigrette—add more vinaigrette as necessary.  Arrange the dressed greens, on the plate(s) with the beets & asparagus.  Sprinkle the toasted pistachios over all. 

Garnish the salad with wedges of hard cooked egg or egg salad toasts.   Serves 4

Notes:  
  • If you have never roasted beets for a salad before, there is a more detailed description of the process here.
  • Similarly, you can find out how I hard cook an egg in this recent post.



Orange Vinaigrette

2 T. Sherry vinegar
2 T. White/Golden Balsamic vinegar
1 medium shallot, finely diced (3 to 4 T.)
Salt & Pepper
1 T. Dijon
Strained juice of 2 Valencia Oranges or Honeybell Tangerines (about 2/3 to 3/4 c.), slowly reduced until syrupy
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (or use a neutral oil, if you prefer)




In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and shallots.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Let sit for a few minutes (to soften the shallots).  Whisk in the mustard and reduced orange juice.  Gradually whisk in the oil, adding it in a thin stream.  Taste and correct the seasoning and the vinegar balance.

(Vinaigrette adapted from recipes in The New Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle & Philip Wojtowicz et al)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Beautiful Boneless Chicken Thighs

The thigh is my favorite part of the chicken.  I think I have always been of this opinion (I have always preferred dark meat turkey, too…).  For many years I was in the minority…the poor thigh was out of favor with most…no doubt a victim of the fear of fat.  In recent years, this most flavorful and moist part of the chicken has been gaining some ground….but mostly in its boneless, skinless form.  This new preference may have something to do with a still ingrained fear of fat (much of the fat resides in the skin), but I also suspect the fact that people want to purchase boneless thighs may have something to do with the fact that a thigh…when cooked surrounded by some kind of delicious liquid (which is one of the best ways to prepare and eat the thigh)….is not the neatest thing to eat.

A fried or roasted thigh is of course easily eaten with ones hands.  But most Americans…self included… are a bit disinclined to pick up a saucy piece of meat with their hands when in polite company.  Trying to remove all of the meat from the bone with a knife and fork can be done….but it takes more time and effort—and creates more of a mess on the plate—than most people seem to be willing to deal with at the table. 


Poulet à la Fermière

Despite all this, I still prefer to cook thighs on the bone…with the skin.  It is an undisputed fact that meat always tastes better when cooked on the bone.  Just as bones give flavor to a stock or broth, they impart flavor to the meat as they cook together.  I would also maintain that meat cooked on the bone is ultimately moister and juicer than corresponding boneless cuts.  As for the skin….besides being delicious in and of itself…I am convinced that since it provides a natural protective coating of fat, it is also responsible for a juicier and tastier final result. 

But just because something has been cooked on the bone doesn’t mean it must be served on the bone.  We routinely carve large roasts in order to serve the meat without the bone—a whole chicken, prime rib, leg of lamb, etc.  There is absolutely no reason not to treat chicken thighs the same way…removing the bone before it ever gets to the table so that you…and your family or your guests….can eat and enjoy a delicious, boneless piece of meat. 


Poulet Basquaise

So today, instead of posting a recipe, I thought I would explain the simple process of de-boning a cooked chicken thigh.  I hope no one minds the lack of a recipe (I have posted several in the past…and have provided images and links throughout this post—you can also find a list under the chicken section on my “recipes” page).  But if the popularity of my other basics posts (as tracked by my new “popular posts” feature below) is an indication, this is actually the kind of information that many people are looking for.    

Before I get started, for safety reasons I want to mention that when you are boning a piece of meat…whether raw or cooked… you should always keep the hand that is holding the knife (your “working hand”) clean and dry.  Use your other hand to handle the meat as you work.  If you allow your working hand to get wet or greasy (by touching the meat) your hand might slip on the knife handle, possibly causing you to cut yourself. 

To de-bone a cooked chicken thigh:  Let the thighs sit until they are cool enough to handle (they don’t have to be cold…in fact, the meat comes away from the bone more easily if it is still slightly warm).  Pick up a thigh with your non-working hand and lightly scrape any sauce clinging to the meat back into the cooking vessel using the back side of your boning knife.  Place the thigh on a cutting board skin-side down. 


While stabilizing the thigh with your non-working hand, 


use the tip of your boning knife to make a shallow incision from knuckle to knuckle along the length of the bone. 


Continue to run the tip of your knife over the incision until your knife is scraping the bone.  This should only take one or two passes with the knife—the idea is that you are “searching” for the bone with your knife tip so that you can actually scrape the bone clean of meat with the tip of your knife without making unnecessary cuts into the meat itself.     


When the bone is exposed, use the fingers of your non-working hand to grab one end of the bone.  Twist slightly while you simultaneously use the tip of the knife to slice and scrape the cooked flesh neatly away from the bone.  If the thighs have been cooked properly (until the meat is fork-tender), the meat will pretty much release itself from the bone.  You may need to do a bit of knife work on the opposite side of the bone from where you started…but not too much.  


Next, lift the bone up and away from the meat. 


Then, using the fingers of your non-working hand, gently probe the portion of the thigh where the knuckles of the bone were attached.  It is likely that the hard white cartilage that covered the knuckles has detached itself from the bone and is still attached to the meat.  If this is the case, simply pinch it away from the meat and discard it.  Check both ends.  


Now, tuck any bits of meat that have been separated from the main piece of meat back into the interior of the thigh (where the bone was).  Flip the thigh back over so that it is skin-side up. 



By way of encouragement...  I have been de-boning chicken thighs for years.  And because I like to serve chicken thighs to my classes, I have lots of practice.  Even with all of this practice, the bone does not always come away beautifully and cleanly.  


But rest assured, if you tuck all of the bits of meat back into the cavity that has been left by the bone, when you flip the thigh over, no one will ever know the difference.  You will still have a beautiful, boneless thigh.  



Since most of the saucy sorts of dishes that will benefit from this process are even better in taste and texture after they have had time to cool and sit awhile (overnight…or even just a few hours) it makes sense to take the few minutes necessary to remove the thigh bones.  If the sauce needs de-fatting, do this before you return the meat to the sauce.  After any de-greasing, place the boneless thighs back in the cooking vessel (skin side up), nestling them down into the sauce.  Refrigerate until an hour or so before you want to serve.  If you are serving your dish family-style, instead of putting everything back in the pan the dish was cooked in, take a minute to transfer the entire contents of the pan into a clean dish (preferably one with a lid) that is oven-safe and table-worthy.  As long as your pan is covered, there is no need to worry that the meat will dry out—one of the wonderful things about thighs is that unlike white meat, there is enough fat and collagen in the dark meat to keep them moist and juicy—even when reheated.

The beauty of this process is that it produces a beautiful portion of meat that still resembles a whole chicken thigh.  A chicken thigh that is cooked from its boneless skinless state may taste good…but the nubby and lumpy portion of meat that results is not terribly attractive.   Once you get the hang of it, removing the thigh bones is fast and easy to do….and in every way that matters—taste, texture, ease of consumption and appearance—it is totally worth the effort involved.  Certainly any guests you have will notice and appreciate the difference…and I would be surprised if even your family won't notice a difference too.  


Baked Chicken with Garlic, Leeks & Thyme

Friday, April 10, 2015

French Potato Tart…with Ham & Cheese



Shortly after I posted my winter vegetable crostata I ran across a link on my Facebook feed to a list of savory tarts that had been published in the New York TimesThe picture attached to the link was of a double crusted potato tart by David Tanis.  His tart is almost identical to one in Susan Loomis’s French Farmhouse Cookbook.  I had forgotten about this unusual tart…I haven’t made it in years…but after seeing it, it seemed to take up residence in the front of my brain.  Later, as I considered the remains of my Easter ham, it seemed obvious to me that this tart would be a great place to tuck a few slices of that leftover ham…along with a bit of  Gruyère cheese….


The main difference between Tanis’s version of this tart and Loomis’s is the type of potato and the amount of heavy cream   Loomis specifies waxy potatoes, while Tanis uses Yukons—which to me are starchy.  His version also uses four times as much heavy cream.  I suspect you can use as much—or as little—heavy cream as you like, but that you will get better results with less cream if you choose a waxy potato …and more cream if you use a starchy potato.  When I made mine, I had Russet potatoes on hand (which are starchy) and used twice as much cream as Loomis (and half as much as Tanis).  I was perfectly satisfied with the way mine turned out.  I mention all of this mostly to illustrate the flexibility of this tart. 

Because the tart is essentially nothing more than potatoes and pastry crust, it is important to season it well.  It should contain a generous quantity of garlic—2 nice fat cloves for 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of potatoes…and 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme.  Without enough salt, your tart will be bland, so when you toss the potatoes with the garlic, thyme and cream, taste carefully for salt—remembering that if you are adding ham and cheese (as I did) that you will need a little less. 


This tart makes a fine dinner…or lunch…accompanied by a salad or side vegetable of some kind.  We enjoyed ours with a shredded Brussels Sprouts salad (Buvette‘s is particularly good…I like to add a squeeze of lemon to this one), but it would also be very nice with a kale or a spinach salad…or a small fluff of baby lettuces.  Blanched green beans or asparagus—tossed with some herbs or a few toasted nuts—would be delicious on the side…as would a big pile of honey glazed carrots.

I admit that advocating the serving of a cream-laced pastry and potato concoction as the main event of your meal may seem a bit audacious in our current culture of—take your pick—gluten-, carb- or fat-avoidance….but I choose not to see it that way at all.  Rather, I think of this tart as a special and delicious treat in the midst of a sensible—“all things in moderation”—approach to eating.  Enjoy!



French Potato Tart with Ham & Cheese

1 recipe pâte brisée (see below), rolled for a double crust tart, bottom shell partially baked
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T. picked fresh thyme, chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream (or crème fraiche)—You may use as little as 1/4 cup for waxier potatoes and as much as a cup for more starchy potatoes.  A half cup is a happy medium, working well for either kind.
5 to 6 oz. ham, trimmed of excess fat and cut into a small dice
4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
1 T. unsalted butter, cut into four pieces (optional)

1 egg yolk
1 T. heavy cream


Peel the potatoes.  Using a mandolin, slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the garlic and thyme.  Season well with salt and pepper and pour in the cream.  Use your hands to mix, making sure all the potato slices are coated and that the seasoning is evenly distributed. Taste the potatoes and cream and correct the seasoning. 


Place the partially baked tart shell on a baking sheet.  Arrange the potatoes in two or three even layers, scattering the ham and cheese in between each successive layer.  Pour any cream remaining in the bowl over the potatoes in the crust, scraping well with a rubber spatula. 




Whisk the yolk and 1 tablespoon of cream together.  Carefully paint the rim of the bottom crust with the egg wash.  Using a 1/2- to 3/4-inch plain or fluted cutter, cut a hole in the center of the top crust.  Place the top crust over the potatoes, being careful not to stretch it, but allowing it to drape naturally over the surface of the potatoes.  Press gently along the edges to seal and to cut the top crust off flush with the edge of the tart pan.   Paint the top crust evenly with the egg wash.


Place the baking sheet with the tart on the middle rack in a preheated 375° oven. Bake the tart until the potatoes are tender and the crust is a beautiful golden brown.  Depending on the potatoes you use, this will take anywhere from 50 to 70 minutes.  Start checking the potatoes after about 40 minutes.  If you like, about 10 minutes before the tart is done baking, insert the four pieces of butter into the center of the tart through the hole cut earlier….the butter will melt and baste the potatoes in the center of the tart as the tart finishes baking.

When the tart is done, remove it from the oven and place on a sturdy bowl so that the rim can be lowered away from the tart.  Slide the tart off of the bottom portion of the tart pan and onto a wire rack.  Allow the tart to cool for five minutes before serving.  (Often the crust will release butter while the tart is baking, by removing the tart from the pan right away you are insuring that the crust will not become greasy or soggy by reabsorbing this butter.)

Transfer the tart to a cutting board or platter and serve warm or at room temperature.  Tart serves 6 to 8. 






Pâte Brisée
 (Savory Tart Dough)

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour (265g)
5/8 t. salt
14 T. cold unsalted butter, sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces (200g)
5 to 7 T. ice water (up to 100g)

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 5 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture.  Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary.  If, when you squeeze some of the mixture it holds together, the dough is finished.  Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound.  Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps.  Continue until all of the dough is flat.  Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do.  Divide the dough into two pieces—one (for the bottom crust) should be slightly larger than the other.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing into a thick disk.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out, let the discs of dough warm up for a moment or two.  Butter a 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan and set it aside.  Flour the work surface and the rolling pin.  Begin rolling from the center of the dough outward.  After each stroke, rotate the dough a quarter turn—always making sure that there is sufficient flour to keep the dough from sticking.  Keep rolling and turning until you have a round of dough that is about 1/8 to 1/6 –inch in thickness and is about 11 1/2- to 12-inches in diameter.  Brush off the excess flour and fold the dough circle in half.  Slide the outspread fingers of both hands under the dough and gently lift it and transfer it to the prepared tart pan.  Unfold the dough and ease it into the pan being careful not to stretch it.  Cut the dough off flush with the edge of the pan by pressing gently against the edge.  Chill the shell for at least 1/2 hour.

In a similar manner, roll out the second disc into a round that is at least 10 1/2-inches in diameter.  Transfer to a baking sheet and chill. 

To partially bake the bottom crust, line the chilled pastry with aluminum foil (dull side up), gently pressing it into the corners and edges.  Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans.  Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes, or until the pastry begins to color on the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a light golden color—another 2 or 3 minutes.  Let cool before filling.


Notes:  If you have never made a basic pâte brisée, you might want to check out this detailed post on how to make short crust pastry.   Similarly, you will find a few pointers on partially baking a pie shell in my post about quiche basics.