Saturday, August 11, 2012

Transition management

We are (I hope!) coming to the end of our physical transition: we’ve signed a lease on a rental house, and picked up the keys and completed paperwork yesterday. We’ve been notified that our belongings have arrived in Australia, and, once they have successfully cleared customs and quarantine (all available appendages crossed), will be on their way to us. With a bit of luck, all the dates will dovetail nicely and it won’t be too much longer until we’re established in a more permanent situation, with our familiar belongings around us.

The mental transition is still ongoing. It’s a big undertaking to move to a new country so far away, even one where you’ve already lived. I am very focused on providing continuity and consistency for everyone, myself included, but there’s no way around the fact that there are practical, emotional, and cultural obstacles that must be navigated, and that some of them are bigger than others. It’s easy to lose perspective when you feel as if you’ve been cut adrift from everything familiar, and haven’t yet learned the landmarks and signposts of your new surroundings. Even the most sanguine people get blindsided some days. I was reminded of this forcefully the other night, when what started as a typical bedtime conversation ended in tears for both a normally cheerful eight-year-old and her normally everything’s-under-control mother.

But it’s okay; some days, that’s just what needs to happen. Maybe that’s what it takes to regain perspective. For me, as always, turning to food and cooking helps. As long as I can get into a kitchen, I know there’s least there’s one area of my life where I can feel a semblance of control, where I can trust that if I do A, B is almost certain to follow. And where a warm apple dessert cannot fail to revive my spirits and bolster me up to try again tomorrow.

TUK tarte tatin
Tarte tatin has long been high on my list of favorite desserts, but this is the first one I’ve ever made. I think it took the stripped-down mise en place of the TUK to make me realize that despite its glamorous presentation, tarte tatin is a much more straightforward dessert-making proposition to make than it might at first appear.

2 medium-sized tart green apples (such as Bramley or Granny Smith)
4 Tbsp butter
2-4 Tbsp sugar
1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Peel, core, and thickly slice the apples. Take sheet of puff pastry out of freezer to thaw.

Put an ovenproof skillet on the stovetop on medium heat, and melt 2 Tbsp of the butter. Add half of the apple slices, and sprinkle these with 1 Tbsp of sugar. Saute the apples, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and you see some browning on them, 6-8 minutes; taste as you go and see if you feel the need to add more sugar.

When lightly browned and sufficiently sweetened, remove the apples from the pan and repeat the process with the remaining butter and apples, again sweetening to taste as you go.

When second batch of apples is cooked, turn off the heat but do not remove apples from pan. Instead, arrange them in a pattern around the bottom of the pan.

Take now-thawed puff pastry, and cut into a circle slightly larger than the bottom of the pan. Place pastry over apples in bottom of pan, tucking in the sides around the apples.

Place skillet in the oven and cook until the pastry is fully cooked to a light golden brown, 30-40 minutes. When tarte is cooked, remove pan from oven, but leave tarte in pan to cool somewhat, 15-20 minutes.

When ready to remove tarte from pan, run a knife or spatula around the edge to loosen it up. Place a serving plate larger than the pan over the tarte, then carefully (warning: hot apple syrup!) flip the plate and pan together so that the plate is underneath and tarte falls out onto it. Tarte should be on plate with puff pastry on the bottom and apples on top.

Serves 6-8 people for dessert, or 1 mother in need.


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