The Cake That Killed The Fish

[by Zeneba Bowers]

We love to buy local products on our travels, bring them home, and try to replicate dishes that we loved overseas. Today I decided to make Vin Cuit tarte, something we had in Gruyeres in Switzerland last November.

Vin Cuit is a traditional foodstuff of western Switzerland. Though its name translates to “cooked wine”, it's really just cooked-down pears. Just pears, and sometimes a couple of apples thrown in. That's it. Swiss people used it as a way to preserve fruit, and also as a way to sweeten dishes before they had ready access to sugar. I love the resourcefulness of the people who made this, and I also love finding ways to make sweet things without refined white sugar.

The Vin Cuit, direct from a shop in Gruyeres

The Vin Cuit, direct from a shop in Gruyeres

So Vin Cuit tarte it is, today… Not because I was dying for the tarte, but because of another dish based on our travels that I recently made and that irretrievably stunk up our house.

The back-story……

Last weekend I made one of Matt’s favorite dishes, beer-battered cod. This is something we indulge in when we’re eating in gastropubs in Ireland. I found a great looking piece of cod at the market and thought “What the hell, I’ll make this for Matt," even though I despise deep frying in the house. I have an issue where I enjoy the smell of cooking, but once the meal is done, I DO NOT want to smell it anymore. Not. One. Sniff.

So I made the fish, and it turned out great. Within an hour of the meal being over, though, I was deeply regretting the choice. The walls of the house seemed to be dripping with and permeated by frying fish stench. I had a couple of glasses of wine to numb myself to it and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, I went to the bathroom to take a shower. I didn’t notice the fish stench - I wasn’t quite awake yet, and the scents of shampoo and toothpaste were fresh in my mind. But as soon as I opened the bathroom door, I was assaulted by a wave of the scent of old fried fish, as thick as a blanket. I immediately became so nauseous that I vomited repeatedly. Good morning!

I spent the rest of that treasured day off extremely nauseous. I was positive that I could smell the stench, everywhere, in everything. Even though it was cold out, I insisted on opening some windows. I just had to try and air out the house.

That night, Matt asked if he could reheat the remaining fish. I agreed because I thought I would be fine. But that was a deeply stupid idea for a couple of reasons: 1) Don’t reheat fish. Jesus. Even the cats wouldn’t eat it. 2) The only thing this accomplished was making me know what vomited sparkling water looks like.

ouch sign.jpg

And so this is how we came to the pass we are in now, where I am making a Vin Cuit tarte. The last few days, I’ve aired out the house. I think that the process of baking this tarte will fill the house with delicious scents, and anyway, I earned a tarte, dammit.

So here we go!

The tarte……

First, you make the dough:

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 C cold butter, cut into pats
1 tbsp sugar (you could substitute vin cuit for this, for a tarte with no refined sugar)
dash of salt
1/2 C cold water

Put dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and process until the meal is coarse. Pour this in to a bowl, make a well in the middle, and add the water. Mix this up, just until it is combined, then form it in to a disc. Wrap it in waxed paper and pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

The dough, ready for fridge.

The dough, ready for fridge.

While the dough is cooling, you need to find something to weight the crust down when you bake it. If you have pie weights, you’re all set. I don’t, because I just can’t stand to spend money on items that only have one use. I. Just. Can’t.

In this case, we used a combo of scrubbed seashells and nails. (What? What’s so funny?? What’s wrong with that?? Move along, citizen.)

Obviously, a bunch of big seashells and a couple of boxes of nails is vital to any kitchen.

Obviously, a bunch of big seashells and a couple of boxes of nails is vital to any kitchen.

OK. So you’ve rolled the dough out, pierced it several times with a fork, covered it in parchment paper, covered in in whatever the hell you are using to weigh the crust down…

Now bake this at 400° for 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling:

2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
3/5 C heavy cream
4/5 C Vin Cuit


Mix the ingredients until smooth, then pour over the cooked crust.

After mixing well, pour the batter into crust.

After mixing well, pour the batter into crust.

Turn the oven down to 300° and cook for 30 minutes or until set. It should jiggle just a little in the middle when it's done.

Voilà!  The cake that killed the fish.

Voilà! The cake that killed the fish.

The house is now nicely laced with a fresh-baked cake aroma.

The moral of the story……

Leave the fish-frying to the pubs; make cakes at home!