There was an interesting article in the NY Times a few months back. It was about families in the city and in Brooklyn forming tight-knit communities who live in the same building or in the same neighborhood. They were willing to sacrifice space and to stay put in their close-fitting apartments to forge their children's close relationships with their neighbor's children. It then turns into a nice network between the parents where they can rest worry free knowing that their child is just next door, upstairs or downstairs. Inevitably, gatherings and dinners are hosted between them deepening their relationships, and eventually leading to kid sleepovers and babysitting swaps.
This story hit home. I live in a 14-story building and I keep an open door policy the minute the kids get home. They are usually rotating between our home and their neighborly friends' homes. Instead of running through backyards, my kids are runnng down the hall or up and down between floors of our building. They love this liberty of being able to run between their friends' apartments on their own. I love it too since I know there is always a surrogate parent around to keep an eye out for them, one of whom is my neighbor Natalie.
Nat is originally an Auvergnate (someone from Auvergne, located in the middle of France). Just a tidbit of history, she comes from the ancient provinces of Bourbonnais (where the long string of Kings in France were sired) which now comprises territory in the department of Alliers, and some in the department of Puy-de-Dômes and Cher. Alliers and Puy-de-Dômes make up part of the Auvergne region. Fast forward—Nat has a daughter who is in the same class as my daughter. Needless to say, our daughters spend a lot of time together which in turn means we moms usually find each other around wine o'clock for a quick catch up and to pick up or drop off the kids. It was during one of these times that I found myself in her apartment, glass of red in hand, learning how to put this charmingly simple pâté aux pommes de terre together. A speciality dish from Bourbonnais—her personal tip to me was "lay that butter on"!
Pâté aux Pommes de Terre
• 1 medium size onion
• 4-5 medium size potatoes
• 2 pâtes brisée (tart pastry)
• Bunch of fresh flat parslely
• 50 grams unsalted butter
• 20 cl crème fraîche
• Salt and pepper according to taste
Slice your onions thinly and put it aside.
Peel your potatoes. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife slice the potatoes into slivers. Salt them slightly and put them aside.
Take your tart or quiche pan (around 10 inches in diameter, 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep or 25 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep) and roll out one tart pastry and place it into the pan. Press the pastry into the sides of the pan.
Use a fork to poke some holes into the bottom of the tart pastry and place in the oven to bake for 3-5 minutes so that it's slighty baked. Take it out of the oven and then begin layering your ingredients.
Getting back to your potatoes, wipe off the excess moisture and place a layer of potatoes covering the entire tart pastry. Follow up with a layer of sliced onions, then snip (I love to use scissors in the kitchen) some parsley leaves all over. Add slivers of unsalted butter all around. Repeat the layering until you have used all your ingredients.
Roll out your second tart pastry and place it over the layered potato tart. Fit the top into the tart. You'll need to press down gently along the top edge of the tart pastry to even out the crust edges with the underlying tart. Then press along the sides to seal the pastry together.
Take a paring knife and with the sharp tip cut out a one inch circle in the middle of the tart pastry.
Place it in the oven at 190° C (375° F) for 45 minutes.
The tart pastry should be golden brown. Take it out of the oven.
Keep your oven mittens on. Hold onto the pan and use the paring knife with your other hand to cut along the interior seam of the potato tart.
Take a large size spatula and slip it under the top tart pastry and lift up to place it on a flat surface on the side.
Prepare the crème fraîche. Add some salt and pepper and stir it up with a fork. Scoop out the the crème fraîche and spread it all over the open face potato tart. Finally, cover it with the tart pastry that you lifted off earlier and put it back in the over for 5-10 minutes so that the crème fraîche spreads through the layers. Then it's ready to be served. Bon appétit!