Friday, June 08, 2007

Midnight feast!

All I had to do was whip up some tasty treats to greet D and MC's arrival after a long, long week - but the best laid of plans of mice and men and J! They said they'd arrive at nine and they'd eat then (considerably later than they'd normally eat) but I was hoping a week on the continent would have acclimatised them to dining later but maybe not this late! I'd had some very distinct ideas about what I wanted to cook but my cunning plans were thwarted by Ocado letting me down a second time in a row. I wanted to make some crab gratin but the white crab meat wasn't available again so I figured I'd grab some on the way home. But Waitrose had no white meat either and I was forced to have a dressed crab in its shell of indeterminate weight. I'd also not been able to get the black pudding I needed from Ocado for my black pudding, apple and potato tart but got a nice Lancastrian one with natural casing from Waitrose.
Obviously they turned up as the clock chimed 9, and I wasn't ready. But it turn out to be worth waiting for; so if you'll forgive me D and MC, I'll try and do better next time! Crab Gratin
A cook’s tour of Scotland – Sue Lawrence
, serves 3-4

150 ml double cream
100 ml dry white wine
100ml chicken stock
450g white crab meat
The grated zest of one unwaxed lemon

25g fresh breadcrumbs
50g Grimbister cheese, grated or finely crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

- Combine the cream, wine and stock in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to half the volume; 10 minutes or so.
- Stir in the crab, heat through, season to taste and stir in the lemon zest.
- Tip into a gratin dish and top with the breadcrumbs and cheese.
- Place under a hot grill until the cheese melts.
- Serve at once with salad and some good bread.

Sue suggests replacing the Grimbister with some farmhouse Wensleydale which was much easier for me to obtain. I served our "crab gratin surprise" in individual gratin dishes, callint it that when it was eventually ready led D and MC to suspect that it was crab-free, that wasn't entirely true but I'd had to add a mystery ingredient. Unfortunately I was well short of the quantity of white crab meat I needed and also mine was mixed with brown as I had a whole, albeit tiny, crab. With hindsight I should have grabbed some tinned crab meat at the same time to make up the quantity but I didn't so I was forced to improvise. I have a choice of tinned tuna in spring water or tinned red salmon. I didn't really want to use either but I was pondering which would blend into the background best and ended up plumping for the tuna. My liquid was much runnier than I thought it would be, this could have been the brown meat which is always more moist or not draining the spingwater sufficiently. But that's my excuse for it not serving it at 9, it would have been crab soup if I'd had! It seemed to go down well despite the late hour, I hoped the chilled Chablis and the dazzling array of crystal tableware would distract my guests from the lengthening shadows!
And then I just had to make the tart! MC had a little snooze whilst I set to with the apples, potatoes and black pudding.
This is the recipe as written in the fabulous pink chequered padded Pork & Sons, with some minor tweaks after it -

Black pudding, apple, potato and fennel tart
Stéphane Reynaud's Pork & Sons - serves 6
3 shallots, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons crème
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 Charlotte or other waxy potatoes
2 eating apples
100g smoked lardons, rindless
400g black pudding
350g puff pastry dough, thawed if frozen
plain flour for dusting
1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bunch of rocket, optional, torn into pieces

Mix together the shallots and crème
fraîche in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain well, then cut into thin rounds. Preheat the grill.
Peel, core and slice the apple. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan, add the apple slices and cook until they're just beginning to colour.
Spread out the lardons on a baking sheet and cook under the grill, turning once for 5-8 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the black pudding and cut into thin slices.
Preheat the oven to
Roll out the puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to a 25cm round and place on a baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons of the shallot cream evenly over the dough round. Sprinkle with the fennel and lardons, then arrange alternate layers of black pudding, potato and apple slices on top. Cover with the remaining shallot cream. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Cover the tart with the rocket, if using, drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

Notes: I substituted the shallots for thinly sliced rounds of leeks instead as apparently I always serve MC creamy leeks and I figured he may feel deprived if I didn't continue this tradition. I used pancetta instead of lardons as I thought grilling lardons and then turning them over individually would be way too time intensive and I was already reaching the witching hour! Again to expedite the cooking, I sliced the potatoes before boiling them. I used Red Delicious apples for this, I haven't seen them before but I loved the dark shiny redness of them.
This was a seriously tasty tart as I had no doubt it would be, Stépahne's porky recipes just seem to leap of the page.It even tasted fine the next day making me think I could add it to the possible picnic repertoire. Not too bad for a "should have been 9 o'clock but ended up nearer midnight feast"!

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