Tuesday, May 26, 2009

my true definition

when i think barbecues,
i think bar cookies,
ice cream
and maybe 

i don't think:
and yet, after venturing
on one of my notorious
missions for memorial day,
that's exactly what i picked.

not only was it a tart,
but one filled to the brim
with raspberries,
which on a scale of 
pineapples and blueberries
to fennel and celery
(ew, for me),
i would rank as 
mangoes (eh). 
but i'm a big fan of pleasing
the masses and as i've learned,
most people rank
much higher on their list
than i would.
and tarts...i love the idea
of a good tart.
in theory.

have you ever been to
restaurant week in nyc?
picture really expensive,
you'd have to sell your best
shoes plus maybe your first
born kid to go on a normal night,
but a place,
where for two weeks, they drop
their dinner menu down to $35 a person,
for a three course meal.
it's still not cheap (figure no less than $12 a person
for one delicious lychee martini or a very crisp
sauvignon blanc), but it's a great
way to sample a restaurant that you
otherwise most likely would not
consider. we've had amazing meals
and really good dinners at
this way. and we've had some
restaurant week cop outs.

but, there was one restaurant -
which to be fair,
i only visited this one time,
and maybe it was an off night,
so i won't call them out -
that when the bill came,
i was horrified by the $125 printed
across the bottom of the paper.
i was partially to blame.
the first courses were both meat,
so i went with the salad, which was
it was the main meal and the dessert
in which i made a grave error,
twice swayed by the word tart 
in the description. 
(in my defense, you order all three
courses in the beginning. and, 
i think they were worded in such
a way that it wasn't immediately
apparent to me
that i had ordered two tarts.)
the dinner was a vegetable tart
and when it came,
i was more than a little upset
by the second salad of the night,
sitting slightly askew atop
a piece of puff pastry.
this is not a tart,
i said immediately to larry.
but i ate it,
explaining that i'm sure 
somewhere - somewhere fancier than me -
it is acceptable that a tart
is merely something crisp
resting underneath other ingredients,
but to me, a tart has a full base
and sides and serves as a
this is not a tart, i said
over and over.
but the plates were taken
away and it was in the past,
so i attempted to get over it
and enjoy the aforementioned
lychee martini
before dessert.
then the lemon tart came.
do i even need to tell you that 
there was lemon curd laying
aside a thin biscuit?
nowhere in the description
had they said a deconstructed
tart. the menu had read:
lemon curd tart.

i was fed up. and annoyed
that i had been
taken twice,
especially as larry enjoyed
beef carpaccio, 
braised short ribs
steaming hot beignets
that he dipped into a
silky vanilla bean

i wasn't sure who i was more
upset with:
me, for ordering two tarts in one sitting,
the chef, for clearly not thinking out the
vegetarian options,
the management for being so freaking
snobby in the first place (there were
other problems, as well),
or again, the management for adding
a 20% service charge before tip.
we walked out of the restaurant,
past all the people at the bar,
who were in fact, fancy,
into the rain, while my hair
frizzed as we ran to the car, the 
whole time yelling,
those were not tarts,
i'll show them what a tart is.
amused, larry took 
to yelling "tarts!" intermittently 
as we drove home on 
the west side highway.

that was three and a half years ago.
when i think about tarts,
i still have a questionable reaction.
but this dessert was brand new - 
in the most recent bon appetit -
and featured a mix-and-press dough,
that was filled with
a mixture made from brown butter, which
was created, i think, just to make
butter sound special. 
but, boy is brown butter one of the
most heavenly, nutty, fragrant 
things out there. so maybe
it was created for another purpose.
and this fruity confection 
is made to feed large crowd -
who just maybe had just had
barbecued chicken and potato salad.
and did i mention it has sides?

as someone who was always
somewhat afraid of 
rolling out,
and transferring
pie dough
to a dish, i wish
i had started with this recipe.
no food processor or pastry cutter
you just melt butter, stir in 
and salt
and use your fingertips to
press the dough into the 
bake it - 
again, no foil,
weights or dried beans
needed -
let it cool,
then arrange raspberries

brown butter requires
little more than
a saucepot with a pale
bottom, a little patience
and a will to hold your nerve
while the butter goes 
from solid,
to melted,
to foamy and bubbly
and finally to a golden
then, you pull it from
the flame just before
it darkens.

mixed with flour and sugar,
it's poured into the shell,
cozying itself around
the raspberries,
before it heads into
the oven. here, it
puffs and turns golden,
dotted by the now pink berries.

this is baking for the baking
novice, which all of us
trained, experienced or
fresh to the world of
baking can appreciate.
the best part is that the 
small amount of work that
goes into this dessert
is all worth it,
whether it's for a bbq where
people may be expecting
to toast sticky marshmallows or
to follow a gourmet dinner
around a table.

the flaky and deep-flavored
buttery crust surrounds
the rich filling, broken up
only by the softened
still-tart raspberries.
it is one piece, it cuts into beautiful slices 
and to me,
it is a tart. 
brown butter raspberry tart
adapted from bon appetit magazine
just before making this tart i almost changed my mind and used apricots instead. i'm glad that i first made the dessert as it was intended, but next time, i think i will use apricots, which i would halve and place cut-side down in the baked shell. i think blueberries and diced strawberries would be delicious, too. in my oven, set for 375˚f as the recipe instructed, the tart threatened to burn twice: once when just baking the crust and a second time when the filling was setting, so i ended up turning it down to 350˚f after about 15 minutes. you know your oven best - bake accordingly.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
2 containers (6 ounces each) fresh raspberries

arrange rack in center of oven. heat oven to 375˚f. melt butter; stir together melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, flour and salt just until it comes together. transfer dough to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. using fingertips, press dough evenly into bottom and up sides of tart. 

place pan on baking sheet. bake crust 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. remove from oven; place on rack and let cool completely.

in medium bowl, whisk together sugar, egg, vanilla extract, flour and pinch of salt. cut up butter and place in small saucepot with a pale bottom set over medium-low heat. let butter cook 6 minutes, or until it reaches a golden brown, swirling saucepot occasionally. it will foam and bubble twice before turning - once it turns brown and smells nutty, take it off the heat immediately to prevent burning. 

(the original recipe now instructs you to transfer the browned butter to a glass measuring cup immediately - this is to prevent further browning. i didn't do this, but i also knew that i was inviting disaster if i didn't move quickly. i was fine, but you decide your own comfort level.)

gradually pour browned butter into the sugar mixture, whisking constantly and swiftly. 

arrange raspberries in tart shell. gently pour egg mixture into pie shell. bake (on baking sheet) 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of tart comes out clean. let cool completely. wrap well and store at room temperature until ready to serve.

No comments: