03 June 2010


I was about a third into The Saucier's Apprentice by Bob Spitz when I burned through Generation A by Douglas Coupland. Now that I am back from Sasq and have traded magazines for books again, I am almost done with Spitz. When first approaching my trinity of food books on my "to read" agenda, I assumed the book about Canadian farms written by the lesbian would be the most flowery but I was mistaken. Spitz is a very romantic writer. He is basically fifty, depressed and wandering around France and Italy trying to rub up on the essence of cooking. He learns some things, gets in the way a couple times, annoys me every now and then but also keeps a diary of recipes dispersed throughout his memoir which are quite endearing.

I'm going to offer you some words and a recipe, deal?

"I was so quick to judge people, typecasting them by what they ate and how they behaved around food, that I feared becoming what I dreaded most: a self-righteous food snob. And something of a show-off, to go with it. Earlier in the throes of prep, I had suggested to Howie that he chop some onions and peppers into a mirepoix, suspecting that he didn't know the term (just as I hadn't when the journey began). It confirmed every suspicion when he returned a helpless blank stare, and I might have made something more it, thrown him a snooty biscuit or two, until I looked up, over his shoulder, at my reflection in the kitchen mirror, and thought, "Only an asshole would do something like that."'


3 onions, sliced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds red new potatoes
3 cloves freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon thyme, minced (I'm sure dried would work fine as well although Spitz might shake a finger at me)
2 cups langoustine or chicken stock

Preheat oven to 325 C.
Make a confit of the onions by sauteing them in the oil until nicely browned. (It is expedient to sprinkle a little sugar over them to make assist the carmalization.)
Peel the potatoes and slice them to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, using a mandoline (or, very carefully with a knife). Season potatoes lightly with salt. Layer potatoes in the bottoms of individual overproof chili bowls, or ramekins. (Come on now, I'm sure a larger oven proof dish will work too if you want to be less prissy, but you'd have to adjust the cooking time.) Place 1 tablespoon of the onion confit in the centre (Clearly, if you are using one large dish, all the confit would be used here), then place a layer of potato slices around the confit, overlapping them as you would for a tart. Sprinkle with garlic and season with salt and thyme. Cover with the stock and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until they are fork-tender and a gentle crust forms on the top.
8 individual servings (or one BIG one!).

Original recipe from The Saucier's Apprentice by Bob Spitz. Photo from Google Images.

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