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Monday, May 21, 2007

it's been a loooooooooooooooooooooong time coming....

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...but it's well worth the wait! At least I'd like to think it is.

This is my belated Mother's day post.....I'm well aware that Mother's day was well over a week ago, and I do assure you that mom got the best of treatments on the day of, but this is the first chance I've had in a whole week to sit down and write about this.......

To explain the set-up first, you have to remember that I live in Ottawa, while my mom is in Toronto (about a 4-5 hour drive away), so I had to plan some sort of brunch that I could make at my mom's (thankfully, she's not averse to me taking over her kitchen) and that my slightly-picky brothers would actually eat.

So I spent some time conspiring, shopping and planning, and came up with the following menu....

Asparagus Soup with crème fraiche
Savoury apple, onion and cheddar tarts with pancetta
Balsamic-dressed greens
Smoked Paprika Hash Browns
Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée

Everything turned out beautifully, and it was a great day (weekend) spent with mom).

Asparagus Soup
(I doubled this recipe, stolen from

2 lb green asparagus
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cut tips from 12 asparagus
1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish.

Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.

Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.

Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips.

Cooks' note:
• Soup keeps, covered and chilled, 2 days. If making ahead, add last tablespoon butter and lemon juice after reheating.

Makes 4 servings.

Asparagus soup for Mother's Day brunch

The tarts were essentially my own creation, with ideas and such stolen from various different recipes, blogs and web sites.

Savoury Tarts with Apple, Onion and Aged Cheddar with Pancetta
4 large spanish onions, sliced
4 large empire apples, sliced
3 T butter
1 T sugar
8 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
aged cheddar
10 eggs
1 cup whipping cream

3.5 cups flour
2 eggs
2 sticks butter, cubed
ice water

To make the filling:
1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions...when you hear a very gentle hiss, turn the heat down to low. Stir occasionally, and let cook for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples, and cut them into small, thin slices. After the onions have been cooking for 30 minutes, add the apples, and cook for another 30 minutes.
3. Add a bit of sugar and turn the heat up slightly. Now, take another small skillet and brown the pancetta until it is lightly crisped. Drain on paper towels.
4. Once the onion/apple mixture is sufficiently caramelized (and it's going to depend on how much water your apples and onions give out....mine took about 90 minutes!), turn the burner off.

To make the dough:
1. Place the flour in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse gently until the butter is well combined.
2. Drop the eggs down the chute of the food processor, and process for about 30 seconds.
3. Add ice water, 1 T at a time, until you have a workable ball of dough (I found that my dough was workable BEFORE it became a ball. Keep an eye on it. If you add too much water, just add a little flour.

*Depending on your food processor, you may need to halve the recipe and do it in two batches.
This amount of dough is enough for 8 5.5" tarts (I bought the adorable little pans for mom as part of her gift).

4. Divide the dough in half. And then in half again. Take half of this, and roll it out thinly with a rolling pin, on a well-floured surface. It should roll out large enough to fill the 5.5" pan.
5. Press the dough into the pan, and trim.
the dough!
6. Continue for remaining seven tarts (I had four pans, so I just did this in two batches).

To assemble:
1. Cover the bottom of the tart with a bit of pancetta. Grate the aged cheddar over top.
2. Take a small amount of the apple onion mixture, and continue filling the tart.
3. Now, whisk together the whipping cream and eggs and gently, carefully, fill the tart to just below the brim.
4. Continue with remaining tarts.

To bake:
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake tarts for 30 minutes (check for doneness by jiggling the pan).
caramelized onion and apple tarts with pancetta and aged cheddar
2. Tarts can be made a day ahead, and then just reheated. Once they are cool, they will hold their shape and you can remove them from your pans. My second batch were meatless, so I put some parsley on top to tell them apart.
savoury tarts for brunch

These are unbelievably cute for a brunch. Definitely make them ahead, as they are waaaaay too labour intensive for a morning affair. I served them with salad (with my classic balsamic dressing - 1 T balsamic vinegar, fleur de sel, 3 T olive oil, 2 t dijon mustard), and some hash browns (this was just happenstance as there were leftover baked potatoes from the night before - I just cooked them in a bit of olive oil, with spanish onion, and a hefty dose of smoked paprika).

the main course

And of course, to finish off was super yummy vanilla bean crème brulée (which I've both made and blogged about can find the recipe I use on epicurious - I just omit the ginger. It's PERFECT every time, and another make-ahead favourite.

Table-side use of a blow-torch is always a good way to get your man involved in the cooking.....
torches in the kitchen are always a good thing

And of course, everyone loves breaking through the delicate sugar crust, and the flavour of the vanilla bean is unbelievable. Though my brothers think you could get a similar result if you just use jello instant vanilla pudding....I beg to differ. This is the real thing, and it's fantastic.
creme brulee

We had a wonderful morning, spent with a wonderful mother, and full of great memories. Mom was happy to have all us kids tracked down, and I was just happy I could do something nice for my mom, who's done innumerable amazing things for me.
mom and kids!


Dolores said...

Let me just be the first to say it was worth the wait. Yum! And happy belated mother's day.

Jenny said...

Wow! Well done!
(Now in an aside - you live in Ottawa? As a fellow DB'er, I had missed that we live in the same city! How did we miss that?)

Peabody said...

The soup with Mom written in it was such a cute idea. We did that at my wedding...though we didn't write mom :)

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

culinarily curious - thanks! I will pass the mother's day wishes on to my mom. :)

quellia - yeppers, I'm an Ottawa gal. West End.

peabody - thanks! the other soups had hearts on them, in various misshapen states. It's amazing what you can do with a little sour cream in a baggie, eh?

Thanks for the comments!

Alison said...

What a gorgeous family you all are. That menu is awesome and sounds utterly delish!

Mama! said...

Well sweetheart,

You're right, it's been a long time thanks I mean! I've been digging in the garden all week and have just come up for air. What a terrific weekend! You can't know how much pleasure it gave me to have you all here! You are an amazing daughter and I don't quite understand how I got so lucky with my kids and their significant others but I'm keepin' y'all!

What a beautiful brunch, it was no easy feat to work in another kitchen but you did it with style and, as always, class. The meal was sooo delicious!

Thank you so much for all the goodies you and Brad gave me as well, the little tart pans, the spices, coffee, Fench chocolate and oooooh, the VANILLA BEANS. I must confess, I sometimes just pop the cork and smell them...heavenly.

You can cook in my kitchen long as you clean up ;)
Mama loves you xoxoxox

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