By Susi Gott Séguret
Over the years my approach to cooking has developed into what I like to call Frappalachian, a partnership between Appalachian ingredients and French technique. Let’s consider the classic French-style apple tart, which is a one-layer version of our American apple pie.
This is a great recipe to make when you have only a few apples and want a quick and pleasing dessert, or when your children or grandchildren are underfoot and you need to keep them occupied in the kitchen. (Set them to the task of arranging the apple slivers.)
It all starts with a good crust. This two-minute oil crust is my go-to (adapted from my French neighbor Madame Reboul, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do), although you can substitute melted butter or bacon drippings for the oil if you’d like to go the extra step. About three apples are all you need to garnish a 10-inch tart. I like to leave the skin on if the apples are firm, because it adds color and texture. If you are dealing with end-of-winter apples, by all means go ahead and peel them.
Ingredients and Preparation
- 10 spoonfuls all-purpose flour
- 5 spoonfuls oil (or bacon drippings)
- 5 spoonfuls water
- 1 teaspoon large-grained salt
- 3 apples
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (or sorghum molasses)
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- Lavender flowers, fresh or dried (if you have them)
For a 10-inch pie dish or iron skillet, spoon 10 rounded soupspoons (serving spoon size) full of flour into a mixing bowl, add 5 level spoonfuls of oil (safflower or other mild oil, or melted butter or bacon drippings), 5 level spoonfuls of water and a small palmful of large-grained salt. Stir around rapidly with a fork, form a ball and pat out directly into your pie dish or skillet, making sure the dough is an even thickness in all places, particularly in the corners.
Next, wash and dry your apples. Peel if not firm, but leave skin on if you can. Quarter and core them, and cut into slices, with the skin side 1/8” thick. Arrange them in a spiral around the outside edge, overlapping each sliver slightly, and then make a second spiral with slices facing in the opposite direction. If apples are small, you can make a third spiral in the center. Dot with thin slivers of butter, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar (white granulated sugar will do fine too) or drizzle with sorghum syrup, and add a judicious dash of cinnamon. Top (for extra worldly flair) with a few lavender flowers if you have them. If not, a few grains of fennel or a light dash of ground cardamom will add a special touch. You can also crumble bits of crispy bacon on the top for a hog-tinged Appalachian touch.
Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream (laced with moonshine) or just as is.
Susi Gott Séguret, a native of Madison County, orchestrates a variety of culinary adventures, including a series of foraging-cooking-dining events called the Appalachian Culinary Experience. A fiddler, photographer and ballad singer as well as chef, she is the author of Appalachian Appetite, Recipes from the Heart of America and Child of the Woods, An Appalachian Odyssey. To learn more, visit SchoolofCulinaryArts.org.