First, you have to think about caramel. Smooth, sweet, with a hint of darkness to it. Chunks of apples are drowned it it, bathed in it, until they take on that same caramel colour. Then all of it is covered in a blanket of crispy, light puff pastry.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
It’s not. It’s wonderful.
People are so intimidated by French food. And maybe the French like it that way. But it’s really not that hard. As far as I’m concerned, any good cuisine boils down to simple ingredients, prepared well. And this dish is exactly that: apples, vegan butter, sugar, and puff pastry. That’s it. What makes it special is the technique.
This is not your mom’s apple pie. Unless your mom was French, of course.
This is the second post/video in my series of Veganizing Julia Child’s recipes. I’m a huge fan, but holy smokes was her food not veg-friendly. Most French cuisine is not, as I learned first-hand last summer in Paris.
So I am setting about to veganize a bunch of her recipes. My first was Mushroom Bourguignon (you can see me doing a live demo of this recipe on Saturday, February 17 at 5 pm on the Celebrity Chef Cooking Stage at The Wellness Show), a rich stew which replaces beef for mushrooms.
This is one of my favourite French desserts. Simple, elegant, and delicious.
You may not have known this, but many commercially-available puff-pastries are vegan. Just read the ingredients to be sure. Oh–and a vessel that has the ability to be on top of the stove and in the oven is key for this recipe. I used my old cast-iron frying pan, it’s pretty much perfect.
Vegan Apple Tarte Tatin
4-6 apples (depending on size) you want firmer ones–I like Granny Smiths
I have long been a fan of Julia Child. I admire her immensely, because she was a pioneer in her field. Before Julia, there were very few female cookbook authors, and there were no TV chefs. She singlehandedly brought the art of French cooking to North America.
I spent the first half of last summer (before I went to Paris) reading her biography, and we share some traits in common. First off, we’re both quite tall, secondly, we almost share a birthday (born just one day–and several years–apart), and we are both cookbook authors! In a way, I owe her thanks for my own success, as she was the one that paved the way.
If you don’t eat meat, living in France can be a challenge. They are a very meat-loving country. Luckily, in Paris, it wasn’t that hard to find vegetarian or vegan places, but most of Julia’s recipes revolve around animal-based proteins. So I have taken up the challenge: I want to veganize some of Julia Child’s recipes, and I’m starting with Beef Bourguignon.
Beef Bourguignon is a hearty stew made with lesser cuts of beef. By stewing them for hours in wine, stock and aromatics, the tougher cuts of meat become tender. For this particular recipe, I’m substituting mushrooms for the beef. Mushrooms are a great swap in this case, as they have a meaty texture, and will soak up all the flavors like little sponges. The bonus of this recipe is that it’ll only take you half an hour or so to make, as opposed to the 3-5 hour timespan it would take you to make it with beef.
You can use whatever kinds of mushrooms you like for this; I’m using button and crimini mushrooms, as it was what was at my grocery store. But portobellas would also be great. If you can find foraged mushrooms this time of the year at your Farmer’s Market, go for it.
You don’t have to be precious about the mushrooms. I sliced some, and some I quartered, just to give different bits of texture in the dish. You could even leave them whole if they are smaller.
Traditionally, Julia Child would have served this with potatoes, but I’ve served it over top of noodles and it was great. It would also be wonderful over polenta, don’t you think?
One last note: I thickened the stew with flour, but you could easily thicken it with cornstarch if you wanted to keep it gluten-free.
The end result is a rich, hearty stew, dark and earthy and shimmering with wine. It’s perfect for a cold fall day.
2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, 1/2″ dice
1 large carrot, quartered, cut into 1/2″ dice
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
3 packages of fresh mushrooms (mixed)–about 5-6 cups, sliced or quartered
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp miso paste
1-2 cups vegetable stock
1-2 cups red wine
3 tbsp flour or cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large dutch oven oven over medium heat and add the vegan butter and olive oil. Once they are melted together and shimmering, add the onions and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until they are soft.
Add the garlic and continue to stir until the garlic becomes fragrant. Now toss in the bay leaf, rosemary, and sprigs of thyme.
Add the mushrooms all at once and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper, then allow to cook down for about 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have begun to shrink down and are releasing their moisture.
Make a well in the middle of your pot, and add the tomato paste into it. Dissolve the miso paste into your vegetable stock, and add about a cup of it, along with the wine, into the pot as well. You should have stock and wine coming just to the top of the mushrooms. Stir, cover, reduce heat and allow to stew down for about another 5-10 minutes, adding more moisture if needed.
Once the stew begins to thicken and darken, stir together your flour or cornstarch with about the same amount of stock until no lumps remain. Carefully begin to add this slurry to your stew, a little at a time, cooking it out, until you get your desired gravy consistency.
Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Serve atop noodles or potatoes, along with a side salad.
Can be made a day in advance, and maybe even tastes better the next day.