“The truth is I did try to stab him. I tried to stab him with a butter knife. Why? Because it seemed deadlier than trying to stab him with a melting stick of butter.”
One thing I’m still not used to in working in a restaurant is the seemingly illogical hours that come with being in the service industry. I clock in at 3 in the afternoon, and for the most part trundle home with sore feet at 11:30 at night, especially cognizant of the white collar twenty-somethings and college students spending their free late evenings at the bar on Thursday and Friday nights.
So sometimes I do feel that I cut out a good part of the irreverent, reckless fun of my early twenties by taking a job in a restaurant, but I also can’t ignore the upsides of working the opposite of a cookie-cutter 9 to 5 schedule. The lazy son of a bitch that is me gets to sleep in every single day. 10 am stand up meetings by a cubicle are replaced by casual weekday jaunts at the beach, and errands somehow have become a calming precursor for the rest of the day versus an after-work chore. Have trouble waking up at 5am to hit the gym? Well what do you know, I can’t either, which is why I can go at 11 instead.
And thank god for the latter, because since I started working in an environment where one pound blocks of European butter are used with reckless abandon, my already horrendous eating habits have become a shining example of how not to live a healthy lifestyle. Scraps of unused olive oil cake, leftover shreds of braised lamb leisurely steeping in their own rendered fat, or even an unassuming container of candied hazelnuts beckon for little snacks during dinner service. Chunks of valdeon blue cheese make the perfect snack, especially when delicately placed on crostini with tomatoes, sea salt, and bacon vinaigrette. Then of course, after you’ve spent an hour scrubbing down a kitchen, mopping floors, and lugging densely packed trash bags to the dumpster, a second wave of hunger hits near midnight, and like any respectable late night craving, these ones are not satisfied by a lean grilled protein with an arugula salad on the side, but something more along the lines of a cheesy potato burrito from Taco Bell, followed by a taco (or two).
And of course, being Inspired by working in a kitchen, happenings such as a stone fruit crostata using that rich european butter, with its higher fat content, become common occurrences during those many free mornings. Crostatas that are deceptively light due to their flakiness, their butteriness masked by summer fruit, tricking you into eat over half single-handedly in the span of a day. At least your new found schedule gives you time to head back to the gym shortly afterwards.
STONE FRUIT CROSTATA
2 medium plums
2 medium white nectarines
1 cup of quartered strawberries
1 cup of pitted and quartered bing cherries
1/4-1/3 cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of flour
½ cup of almond flour
1 egg for the egg wash
2 tablespoons of turbinado or demerara sugar
adapted from Martha Stewart
ENOUGH FOR ONE CROSTATA
1 ¼ cups of flour
½ teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 stick of frozen unsalted butter
for the pate brisee
Take the frozen stick of butter, and using a heavy knife create flakes by slicing the butter as thinly as possible. The frozen fat should flake on its own. Toss the butter together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large metal bowl and place in the freezer until you’re ready.
Take a knife, and start cutting the butter into the dough until the butter is the size of small, crumbled up peas. I prefer this method since the warmth of your hands tend to warm up the fat, which is what you don’t want when making pastry. Switching to a rubber spatula, add ice water a couple tablespoons at a time until the dough begins to clump together when squeezed. Don’t add too much so that it becomes sticky - it’s alright if there’s some stray crumbs, since they’ll get absorbed when the dough rests. Knead as few times as possible until you can press it into a disc, wrap in plastic, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour (although the longer the better.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the fruit with the sugar, salt, vinegar, pepper, and flour. Roll out the chilled dough until it is a large circle (let’s say 11-12 inches), making sure you are constantly flouring the board and keeping the dough cold. The easiest way to do this is simply roll in one direction, and rotating the circle of dough an eighth of a turn after every stroke. Spread a layer of the almond flour over the center, leaving a 2 inch border, and pile on the fruit mixture. Fold the border of dough onto the fruit.
Let the crostata chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. This is important as it will help the tart hold its shape in the oven and help relax it even more. Brush the edges with beaten egg mixed with a little of bit of water or heavy cream, and sprinkle with demerara or turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool before serving.