TRANSPLANTED: Comment Dit-on “Clam Pie”?

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A globetrotting chef may not be the most obvious proponent of terroir. But, there, in his immaculate, compact kitchen in Springs, perched prominently on a narrow bookshelf, is Laurent Tourondel’s coveted edition of Le guide de la cuisine des terroirs, a tome that is much less popular than Escoffier. Le guide is important not for codifying French cooking to the rest of the world, but for celebrating and documenting cooking traditions from every corner of that very food-focused country. The dusty book is ahead of its time, of course. The recipes are local, seasonal, thrifty, using meager vegetables, farmstead cheeses, off-cuts of meat, obscure and ugly sea creatures.

It’s not exactly the food you will find at BLT, the family of restaurants that includes BLT Fish, BLT Steak and BLT Market in Manhattan. (The acronym stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel and is only related in some vague sense to the popular toothsome American sandwich.) BLTs have spread to Charlotte, Los Angeles and Hawaii recently. BLT Burger is a hit in Hong Kong. There are 16 BLTs worldwide.

But when he is cloistered on the East End, often during the winters, to recharge and cook for friends and family, Tourondel has more time to recreate some favored dishes from his heritage. (And to indulge his new obsession with pizza. More on that later.)

“My world gets small when I’m out here. It’s here, to the beach, to Nick & Toni’s, to Round Swamp,” says Tourondel, who has been visiting East Hampton for nearly two decades, ever since he stayed with a friend in Georgica. “I liked it very much.” It reminded him of the towns in southwest France where his grandfather took him on fishing trips. “It’s quiet, you know. The bay is right here.” Tourondel’s parents and grandparents had boats, even though the family lived in the landlocked French heartland of Bourbonnais. He still wants to have a boat. “When you live inland, all that you dream of is the sea.” One of Tourondel’s first gigs after École de Cuisine was as chef to the admiral in the French Navy.

Decorated in a “very casual, very beach-oriented style,” there are equal parts well-appointed kitsch (a sailfish on the wall, Tahoe water skis) and nostalgia (a topo map of l’Amérique du Nord from schoolboy days, a sanitary soap dispenser that was popular in public bathrooms in France in the 1950s). The garage reveals an interest in things that go fast: there’s a ’65 Corvette Stringray (“black and black,” Tourondel says, beaming) and a rare ’55 Lambretta that he bought in Vietnam.

In the petite kitchen that he designed himself, the centerpiece is a Provence blue La Cornue stove (“the French Rolls Royce”). The refrigerator and freezer are hidden in drawers under the gray-stone counters. “I love working here. It’s very functional.” There is a massive cutting board with an ingenious lip that extends over the edge of the counter for easy cleaning. Tourondel and his friend and chef colleague Christophe Bellanca, formerly of L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and Le Cirque in New York, with whom he generally speaks in French, both clean as they cook, ingredients and tools appearing on and then disappearing from the counters and stove as needed. “I’m OCD about putting stuff away,” Tourondel says.

On this particular day, his mission is to create five dishes, some with international origins translated through the East End ingredient vernacular. There’s a pear cocktail, a creamy seafood chowder, a clam pizza, a rustic potato pie and an apple cake. The potato pie—a sort of ultrarich Bonac clam pie, without the clams—carries significant emotional baggage. It’s his grandmother’s recipe and it’s a dish unique to the region of France where Tourondel grew up, but also a dish that would make sense to earlier generations of Long Island potato farmers.

Tourondel claims that the pie never tastes as good as it does with potatoes from his region. Bellanca agrees. And the two equally miss tarragon from the Old World. “But,” he declares, baring a bit of local boosterism, “there is no better duck than Long Island. At the restaurant we rub them in a 7-spice rub. We rub the duck and leave it two weeks, to dry-age on the bone. Then we roast and grill it.”

Just as the cooking marathon is about to begin, there’s a knock on the front door. A hulking, bearded LIPA employee says he’s doing post-hurricane tree work trimming down the street and the power will be off. Tourondel looks at his watch. He tries to pin down how long the power will be off and after some uncomfortable back and forth, the arborist-electrician says, “As long as it takes.” Which is fine, because the cocktail and cake are already made.

1. Pear Breeze
“First, it is a good drink to get wasted on,” says Tourondel. He pours the cocktail out of a pitcher, using a wooden spoon to hold back the bits. He tops each glass with soda and ice, paper-thin slices of pear fresh from the mandoline, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Not to mention a touch of barn red liquor—for theater more than flavor. “It’s bleeding. See,” he says. “It’s strong. It has cognac. It’s a good, warm, fall healthy drink.”

2. East End Clam Chowder
The secret for seafood? “To prepare as simple as possible. If you get the right fish,” Tourondel says. “It’s good to buy fish at the dock. That is a good sign.” He procures his seafood from Citarella, Gosman’s, “the fish shop in Wainscott.” He fishes in Montauk, finding shark fishing particularly fun. And when is the fish done cooking? That’s as much art as science, he explains. Plunge a knife into the flesh, he adds. And when the fish is done, the knife should be “very warm on the lips.”

He grills small squares of striped bass for the soup, first brushing the grill with a paper towel doused in oil. “Hopefully it won’t stick,” he says as if he hasn’t been here before. The skin-on fillets are arranged in a grid, and he works through them one by one, prying up one end of the fish with a yielding spatula. “I grill all year-long. I grill in the fall, winter, Christmas. I grill duck, fish, everything.”

3. Bacon & Onion Pizzeta with Long Island Clams
“This is really a tarte flambée with clams and Pecorino,” says Tourondel, who has been harboring an interest in pizza for some time. Who can blame him, considering the pizza resurgence among us, including at the other end of the LIE (at Roberta’s in the county of Kings)? “When I get bored and don’t know what to do I make pizza. I know it sounds weird and I don’t know when, but one day I will be owner of a pizza place.” One of his favored kitchen implements is a large cutting board marked with ever-widening rings of different sizes of pizza pie.

4. Louisette’s Potato Pie
On the wall near the kitchen is a framed recipe for “Pâté aux Patates” from Tourondel’s grandmother. “There’s so much detail about the recipe,” he says of this dish indigenous to his home region. “Some people use bacon, some put onions, some don’t put onions. Some put potatoes, some put parsley. Some put garlic.”

“My great-grandmother would make it in a coal oven. We could smell it at the end of the street when we were coming out to visit her. She cooked it the night before. When she heard our car coming she started to reheat it. After my grandmother made it, my mother made it. It’s a Sunday brunch item, served with a green salad. And if I have a bit more money, a Sunday dinner item. Once a week in every family, they make this dish. Pâté aux pommes de terre.”

“It’s actually very good the next morning,” he says as he removes the piping-hot potato-containing pie from the oven and sets it on the counter. “When we would go out and club and come back in the middle of the night, it was very good. It could cure hangovers.” He sharpens a knife and decapitates the top of the crust (“Sliding it off is the tricky part”), pours crème fraîche, salt and pepper over the sliced potatoes, puts the pie top back on and then wraps the pie in a towel to infuse for 30 minutes, the crème infiltrating every crack and pore in the spuds. “To know it was ready,” he says of his
grandmother’s technique, “potatoes must run crème.”

“It’s really only potatoes, dough and crème fraîche. So, really, the better the ingredients, the better the dish. The potato makes the pie. And one of the reasons I don’t make it is because I don’t have potatoes. If you have a better potato, then this dish becomes amazing. And the better the crème fraîche is, the better the potatoes are. The crème is a bit more acid in France, which is also better for the potatoes.”

“Whenever Mom comes here, I make one. I make pâté aux pommes for friends, but not for the restaurant.” (Something about New Yorker’s resistance to such hearty peasant fare—”Basically people watch what they are eating in New York”—and about the difficulty of being able to prepare it to order, which is what it deserves. “I’m not sure it’s the right thing.”) He has done a fancy (and very popular) version with caviar on top. “You can’t buy it anywhere,” says Bellanca, although 10 years ago he was startled to find one in a pastry shop not far from where Tourondel grew up. “Ah, this is an emotional moment,” Tourondel says, smirking. “I am about to cry.” He tastes. “I love it.”

5. Hampton Honeycrisp App le Cakes
“The reality of the story is that it’s carrot cake,” Tourondel says. “We replaced carrot with apple. The carrot cake is so good that why not change carrot for something else according to the season. Pineapple, mango, papaya.” The same cake was once served at the original BLT, the creation of the restaurant’s first pastry chef. “She gave it to me,” he says. “C’est pas mal. C’est jolie, jolie.” He tucks in crumbs with the tip of the long cake-cutting knife. “Jolie, huh?” A sugar coating around the cake’s perimeter caramelizes when it’s cooked and adds a very pleasant crunch. “The cake is a bit spicy,” he says. “But the caramel sauce is like candy.” Bellanca agrees: “That sauce is very, very good.”

RECIPES
Pear Breeze

1 quarter of whole pear, diced

¼ ounce simple syrup

¼ ounce lemon juice

1 ounce cognac

1 ounce pear nectar

¼ ounce pomegranate juice

1 dash cinnamon, for garnish
1 thin slice of whole Pear, for garnish
Process Muddle together the diced pear and simple syrup. Transfer pear mixture to a shaker and add cognac, pear nectar, lemon juice, pomegranate juice and ice. Shake vigorously and roll into a rocks glass. Garnish with a thin slice of pear and a light dust of cinnamon.

Bacon & Onion Pizzeta with Long Island Clam’s
Serves 6

Dough

1 ounce fresh yeast plus 1 tablespoon dry yeast

9 ounces lukewarm water

14 ounces caputo ‘00′ flour (pizza flour)

1 teaspoon salt

Topping
10 ounces crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

3 egg yolks

Freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 small white onion, peeled, thinly slice

6 slices bacon, sliced into small dice

2 dozen little neck clams, shucked, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves
To make the dough In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 ½ tablespoons of lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix ingredients until the consistency becomes a smooth paste. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Transfer 12 ounces of flour on a clean work station and using your a fist form a crater. Pour the yeast mixture into the center of the crater. Add the salt and remaining lukewarm water and flour and using your hands, work the ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. Transfer dough to a mixing bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 1 day.
Remove dough from the mixing bowl and divide into 2 equal pieces. Using your hands form each piece into a ball. Taking one ball of dough at a time, press with your fingers to flatten and using a rolling pin form into a large thin circle, about 12-inches in diameter. Repeat process with remaining dough. Dust a cookie sheet with flour, place the dough on it and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
To make the topping Combine the creme fraiche, flour, egg yolk, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper and mix until smooth and creamy.

Bake the pizetta Preheat oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, place this on the bottom of the oven, otherwise a flat sheet tray or baking pan can be substituted. It should be very hot when you put the pizza on it.

Spread half of the cream topping in a thin layer over each pizza, making sure it is evenly distributed, leaving a quarter-inch border around the edge of the dough. Divide the onions and bacon evenly over each pizza.

Slide the tart onto the pizza stone and bake for 10-12 minutes, placing the clams over the pizza halfway through.

Sprinkle the oregano leaves over the top and cut each pie into 6 slices.
East End Clam Chowder
Serves 6
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine

8 pounds cherrystone clams, scrubbed and rinsed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 ounces bacon, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 sprigs thyme, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt-water crackers
Cook the clams: Pour the water and wine into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the clams, cover, and cook until they pop open, approximately 5 minutes. Remove the clams to a bowl, discarding any that have not opened. Strain the liquid. Set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove the clams from their shells and cut them into 1/4-inch pieces.
Cook the chowder: In a pot, melt the butter with the bacon over medium-high heat until the bacon is crispy. Add the onion, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Sauté until the onion is translucent, approximately 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, reserved clam juice, and cream. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Fish out and discard the bay leaves. The soup can be made to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Refrigerate the clams in a separate container. Reheat the soup and let the clams come to room temperature before proceeding. Return the clams to the pot. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve: Ladle the soup into 6 warm bowls and serve with salt-water crackers alongside.
Hampton Honey Crisp Apple Cakes with Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Serves 6

Non-stick cooking spray

1 ½ tablespoons sugar in the raw

Apples

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

3 Honey Crisp apples, peeled and cored and halved

Cake

¾ cup all purpose flour

½ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

¾ cup grated Honey Crisp apple

¼ cup canned crushed pineapple

Calvados sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup Calvados or other apple liqueur

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream (recipe follows)
Special equipment: six 3 x 2-inch ring molds
Prepare the molds: Wrap the bottom of six 3 x 2-inch ring molds with aluminum foil. Spray the inside of the molds with non stick cooking spray and sprinkle with the sugar in the raw.
Prepare the apples: Melt the butter in a sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Add the cinnamon and brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the apples cut side up and sauté over very low heat until the apples are tender and nearly cooked through, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Keeping the top ½-inch the apple intact, make ¼-inch slices so that apple is still whole but can fan out. Set aside.
Make cake batter: In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add all ingredients and mix on a low speed until just combined. Make sure not to over mix.
Bake the cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the ring molds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the apple halves, core side up, in each of the molds, pressing the apples down to fan out the slices. Divide the batter evenly among the six ring molds and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake and gently remove cake from mold. Turn so the apple side is facing upwards.
Make sauce: Combine all ingredients in small pot set over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.
Serve: Re-warm the cakes for a few minutes in a hot oven. Top with the warm calvados sauce and serve with Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream.
Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

10 egg yolks

¾ cup sugar
Combine the milk, heavy cream, scraped vanilla beans and pumpkin pie spice in a small pot set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar in a medium size mixing bowl until pale and frothy. Carefully pour the hot milk into the egg mixture whisking constantly to make sure the eggs do not cook. Transfer mixture back into the pot and place over medium-low heat. Stir constantly and allow mixture to thicken so that it coats the back of a wooden spoon or until ithe temperature reaches 180°F. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean mixing bowl set over an ice bath. Once completely cooled freeze in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Louisette’s Potato Pie
Serves 6

4 large Idaho potatoes

2 large puff pastry sheets

1 ½ cups heavy cream or crème frâiche

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup all-purpose flour, for dusting work surface

½ medium onion, peeled and sliced

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped curly parsley
Prepare the potatoes: Peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/8-inch rounds. Put them in a bowl and add the onion, garlic, and parsley. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 380°F
Prepare the dish: Shape the puff pastry to an 11-inch metallic pie dish. Add the potatoes. Cut around the perimeter of the pie dish, removing the excess pastry, but leaving about 1 inch of dough hanging over the side. Discard the scrap pastry and fold the portion hanging over the side so it encloses the potato. Brush the upward-facing dough with eggwash. Place the other sheet of puff pastry on top of the pie dish and cut it so it conforms to the top of the pie dish. Brush the top with egg wash.
Bake the pie: Put the dish on the oven’s center rack and bake until cooked through (a sharp, thin-bladed knife inserted to the center of the tart will come out hot), 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and cut around the perimeter of the top, removing the puff pastry from the top. Set the cover aside. Add the cream to the pie and jiggle the potatoes with a spoon to let the cream seep into the deepest part of the pie. Season with salt and pepper, return the cover and let the cream infuse for 15 to 20 minutes, covered with a clean, dry cloth.
To serve: Present the pie in its dish from the center of the table.
OYSTER CRACKERS
Serves 6 (about 150 pieces)

1 bunch parsley, cleaned

2 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons cold butter, small dice

3 cups all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder dissolved in ½ teaspoon hot water

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoons old bay seasoning

Salt & Pepper

Vegetable oil for frying
To make the parsley puree: Place the parsley, garlic and half of the olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make the dough: In a kitchenaid fitted with the hook attachment, combine the butter and 2 ½ cups of the flour. Add the baking powder mixture, salt and milk and continue to mix until combined. Remove from mixer and using your hands knead together to form a dough consistency, adding the remaining flour in batches as necessary.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out so that it is paper-thin, about 1/16-inch thick.
To make the crackers: Preheat a deep fryer to 375°F. Spread the parsley puree evenly over one side of the dough. Season with the old bay. Fold the dough in half and using a very small ring mold, about the size of a dime (5/8-inch) punch out the crackers.
In batches, deep fry the crackers until golden brown and puffy, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer crackers to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt.
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