Well, it is almost time for this season of Top Chef Canada to come to a close.
Tonight, we all will find out if Trevor, Jonathan, or Carl will take home the title of ‘Canada’s Top Chef’. It’s been great watching these three skilled gentlemen show off their chops throughout the past 13 weeks, so, regardless of who wins, it will be well-deserved.
Yet again, I’ve found myself out of town during one of my weekly Top Chef Canada dish recreation challenges. I was lucky enough to head back to Vancouver this week to attend Trevor Bird’s restaurant opening bash for Fable Kitchen. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it was the name of his team’s one-day dining establishment during this season's ‘Restaurant Wars’ episode.
When I popped by the event, I told Trevor I had to recreate his Apple Bacon Tart from the current episode. Not being much of a dessert-maker himself, he assured me that I would be fine baking his dish this week!
In addition to baking some apple bacon tarts this past weekend, I also signed on to cook a birthday dinner party for my friend Jillian. After coming up with a simple menu for her and some friends to enjoy, we decided that some Top Chef-inspired tarts would be the perfect way to end the evening, on a sweet note. I’ve cooked many of my Top Chef Canada recreations for friends before, but making a dessert dish at a birthday dinner was definitely upping the ante. Jillian is not an easy lady to impress!
Now, I don’t usually cook for large groups of people and, truth be told, this group was not that large, about ten or so, so I decided to leave the dessert prep until after finishing all of the other dishes. After three hours of cooking, some lovely conversation, and more than a few glasses of wine, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started working on the tarts yet. It was time to pull myself together and get this job done!
Now, if we can quickly reference my macaroon disaster of week four, you’ll remember that I’m not much of a baker. Luckily, pies and tarts are a tad more attainable, so I started off by frying the bacon until it was extra, extra crispy.
Next, I sautéed the apple slices in the leftover bacon fat with some sugar, honey and a splash of juice. Threw in a few spices and, with that, the filling was done. Easy as, well, pie tarts I guess…
When it came to the pie dough, I tossed some chopped walnuts, flour, sugar, salt, and cubed butter into a food processor. It may have been the few glasses of wine I was enjoying during the birthday dinner, but I accidently added too much liquid to the dough, making it way too sticky.
I managed to salvage the dough with a bit more sugar and flour. Finally, with an ideal product to work with, I let the dough chill in the fridge for a half an hour. Once everything was ready to assemble, I baked off the tarts, all the while crossing my fingers that they would turn out well.
Post-baking, I let the mini desserts cool slightly and then sampled them out to the nine ‘judges’ in the room. After a few bites, the tarts were given thumbs up by all. I think their taste buds had been relaxed by wine throughout the evening, as I thought the tart crust definitely needed a bit of refining, but I’ll take compliments when I can get them!
Next week will be my final Top Chef Canada taking the challenge home. So, no matter who matter who comes out on top tonight, know that I still have one stressful cooking challenge left! Ha, ha, ha.
Rustic Apple and Bacon Tart
Yields 12 tarts
Total prep time…1 hour, 15 min
What you’ll need…
• 1 ¼ cup walnuts (loosely chopped)
• 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ cup white sugar
• ½ TSP salt
• 2/3 cup butter (chilled, cubed)
• cold water
Apple Bacon Filling:
• ½ cup smoked bacon (loosely chopped)
• 2 gala apples (cored, halved, thinly sliced)
• ½ cup white sugar
• ¼ cup apple juice
• 1 TBSP honey
• 1 TSP cinnamon
• 1 TSP chili powder
• 1 TSP nutmeg
• 2 TSP all-purpose flour
Place the walnuts into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add in the next 3 ingredients and pulse a few times to combine. Next, toss in the cubed butter and pulse until the flour/walnut mixture resembles a small crumble. Slowly pour in the cold water while pulsing until a soft dough forms. Remove from food processor and place onto a floured surface. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for about an hour.
Apple Bacon Filling
Cook the bacon in a large pan on the stove until very crispy. Remove from pan, leaving some of the rendered bacon fat. Place the apple slices in the pan and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Next, add in the next six ingredients, stir to combine and let simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes. Carefully sprinkle in the flour to help the filling thicken. Return the crispy bacon to the pan and remove from heat to let cool before filling the tarts.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the chilled dough to approximately 1/4” thickness and press into prepared tart shells or tray. Fill each tart with a couple spoonfuls of the apple bacon filling and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.