Kendall’s tres clever centerpiece. Someone snagged the bag of peanut m&m’s before I could start snapping…

Le Quatre Juillet et Tarte aux Pommes ~ 4th of July and Apple Pie

How does one celebrate the 4th of July in France? With hot dogs and hamburgers and apple pie, of course! You don’t think we’d eat croissants and quiche, do you? It’s amazing how the little things in life that would normally go unnoticed bring so much joy when you are living six thousand miles away from home. Little things like hot dogs on real hot dog buns, not creatively cut brioche, and hamburgers with individually wrapped pieces of processed cheese melted on top with Heinz ketchup, French’s (how ironic!) neon yellow mustard, pickles and chopped onions or a bag of Lay’s ruffles dipped in Knorr’s onion soup mix with real sour cream.

At one point in the evening I was eating a hot dog with all the fixings and started laughing as I realized just how happy I was to be eating a good old American hot dog surrounded by the red, white and blue. Kendall, the gracious hostess who is moving back to the US after two and a half years here, instructed everyone to dress up as a “typical American” (which I conveniently forgot about) so you can imagine what showed up. The grand prize went to a very creative French woman who came as the Statue of Liberty! And her husband won the American history trivia contest, aided by non-Americans doubling their total score. I came in second, teamed up with the precocious Caroline who is 8 going on 28. Her French is so fluent her teachers didn’t know she is American. We are all pitifully envious.

Most all of the Americans I have met here try to assimilate into the culture via language, customs, traditions, travel, friends but once in a while a little something that reminds you of home can evoke unexpected emotions, at least they did for me, along with a little melancholy, pride and comfort, like getting a big hug from across the ocean. Funny what a mere hotdog can do…

So the evening’s menu consisted of:
Hot dogs
Heinz ketchup
French’s mustard
Pickles, onions
Kraft individually wrapped slices of cheddar-colored cheese
Cole slaw
Rice and beans
Pasta salad
Lay’s ruffle chips and Knorr’s onion soup mix dip
Pringles, Bugles
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder bread (!!!)
…and a big old fashioned apple pie 🙂

Good Old Fashioned Apple Pie

I made this pie for the 4th of July party. I was going to make potato salad but I had a centerpiece full of apples that I didn’t want to go bad so apple pie it was. It’s one of those foods that immediately transports me back six thousand miles and thirty years. I can picture perfectly my grandmother sitting in her kitchen in her impeccable knit suit protected with a ‘housecoat’, looking out on the garden where my grandfather was always working, peeling the apples in a spiral without breaking the peel, quartering and coring them by pulling the blade of the knife toward her crooked thumb (I always cringed but she never cut herself), poking the crust with a fork then deftly crimping the dough in a perfect pattern around the pie dish.

My flatmates were here when I took the pie out of the oven and they helped me pack it up for the trip across town to the festivities. Yesterday morning, my flatmate Pierre greeted me with a big smile and a request for another apple pie. He said it smelled so good and he’d never had a real American apple pie so off to the market I went for a bag of apples relishing, pun intended, the thought of sharing something so quintessentially American with a French person, and one that has shared so much of his French culture with me. We had three other French people over for dinner that night and they all were very confused by the pie as it neither resembled nor tasted like a French apple tarte but all the plates were licked clean 🙂


– 5 granny smith apples
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 to 2 tbsp cinnamon (to your taste)
– 1/2 to 1 tbsp ground nutmeg (to your taste), I use my long microplane to grate the nutmeg, much faster and easier
– 1 tsp sea salt
– 1/2 lemon squeezed (please use a real lemon and not that fake plastic lemon-shaped thing that squeezes out something that could no doubt substitute for rocket fuel)
– 1 vanilla bean, insides scraped and added to the apples. You can save the pod and add it to a cup of sugar, seal and save, to make vanilla sugar. or you can use 1 tsp vanilla extract.
– 2 tbsp butter
– 2 portions of pate brisee (or your favorite pie dough)
– cream for brushing crust
– caster sugar for sprinkling on top


– 200g flour (7oz)
– 100g butter (very cold (3.5 oz) cut in small pieces
– 5g salt (.25 oz)
– 1 tbsp granulated sugar
– 60 ml water, very cold (2 oz)

1. Sift flour, sugar, salt

2. Using a dough scraper or pastry cutter, cut in butter until very small chunks

3. Add water and combine until you can form a ball

4. Wrap with clear film and chill. Don’t take out of the fridge until ready to roll out. Or… you can do what I did and run to the store to buy 2 packages of pre-made already-rolled-out dough 🙂 it’s not nearly as good but if you don’t have the time or desire to have you or your kitchen covered in flour, it’s a great back-up.


1. Heat oven to highest bake setting.

2. Peel, core and cut apples into 1-inch chunks

3. Toss with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon juice

4. Roll out one portion of dough and place in pie pan.

5. Add apples on top of the dough. There will be a lot of juice in the bottom, go ahead and pour it all in!

6. Dot the top evenly with small pieces of butter

7. Roll out second portion of dough. You can cover the whole pie and poke holes with a fork or you can cut strips and create a beautiful lattice top crust or you can do what I did and whip out a lattice cutter that cuts a perfect lattice every time.

8. Fold over and crimp the edges of the top and bottom crust.

9. Brush the top crust with cream and sprinkle caster sugar all over the top ensuring it’s on the crust.

10. Turn oven down to 350F / #5 and cook for 45 minutes (or til crust is golden brown and apples are bubbling)

11. Let it cool and serve with the best vanilla ice cream you can find or better yet, make it yourself!

Bon Appetit and Happy 4th of July from across the pond!

Le Quatre Juillet et Tarte aux Pommes 8 July,2006Cucina Testa Rossa

  • Digital Art Photography for Dummies

    These look yummy and the phots are great. I find my biggest dilemma in recording a delicious and well-presented dish is photographing it in a public restaurant. You’d think it would be as simple as standing up focusing on the plate of food and pressing the shutter release. It is easy when there’s not a lot of people in the restaurant. But when there is you kinda have to be a bit sneaky so as you don’t interrupt the diners near you (this is really a factor if you’re in a country where taking pictures of the food you’re eating is not an ordinary activity). It’s really hard if you want to shoot the person’s dish who’s across from you. I see that you have framed your photos so that the food is the focus. That’s why it looks so good. Thanks!

  • Tanna

    I don’t think I’d call this just a regular American Apple Pie. Your pie is over the top beautiful!!!

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks tanna! you’re much too kind but it did taste good. next i’m going to tackle the crust. my grandmother made it with crisco, something i just can’t bring myself to do, but rich, salty, french butter should work just fine 🙂


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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