Monthly Archives: March 2010

Lemon Curd Tart

Oh look! It’s something lemon!

Lemon Curd Tart - top

I know, I know. I have lemon issues. But, please forget about my lemon obsession for a few moments and let’s concentrate on the fact that I attempted pastry! Yes, that thing that everyone else makes and leaves me paralyzed for fear of disaster.

The fact that it’s advertised as “unshrinkable” and mine so very, very shrank like it was Alice in Wonderland after drinking that potion? Yeah, I’m going to ignore that part of it. Because, if I focus on what didn’t quite work, then I’ll never try to make pastry again and with so many pies and tarts to make, I can’t let that get in my way.

"Unshrinkable" tart shell

So, the occasion was perogy night at a friend’s house. Colette’s mom makes killer homemade perogies and Colette paired them up with fried onions and sour cream, the largest kielbasa I’ve ever seen in my life and a huge casserole dish of her mom’s equally delicious cabbage rolls. And salad. But I think Colette and I were the only ones that ate any. And then, of course, lemon tart.

I picked lemon because I figured it would be something light after all that delicious Ukrainian food. And I picked a tart because I really want to get better at making pastry. This Lemon Curd Tart would take care of both those things.

But it wasn’t without it’s challenges.

1) The “unshrinkable” tart shell that shrank. (Watching cooking shows on TV since this, I have learned that you just can’t stretch dough. It will shrink back. Uh-huh. Lesson learned.)

2) I burnt the living daylights out of my hand when whisking the lemon curd just after it came off the heat. But, I was proud of myself for continuing to whisk (the show must go on!) while stretching my way over to the sink and running cold water on the burn. Boiling hot lemon curd – 1. Me – 0.

My tart pan is also a bit bigger than suggested, which is probably why I had more trouble with the dough and felt the curd layer was a bit thin. Next time I’ll double the dough and make some jam tarts with leftovers. And I’ll double the curd, make a nice thick layer and then eat the rest with a spoon. :D

The lemon curd is pretty basic. The tart shell comes from Dorie Greenspan, as adapted by Smitten Kitchen. (I am leaving her instructions completely intact because she explains it very well.)

Lemons

Eggs

Lemon Curd

Curd in Tart

Lemon Curd Tart - side

Lemon Curd Tart

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 -3 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (yeah, I did a lot more than that. Probably double.)

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, whisk eggs, lemon juice and sugar. Cook, constantly stirring, until mixture becomes thick. (This took about 10 minutes for me.) Remove bowl from heat and strain to remove lumps. Add small pieces of butter and whisk into lemon mixture until butter has melted. Stir in zest. Let cool. Cover with plastic wrap (I press mine right onto the curd to prevent a skin form forming) and refrigerate.

The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell
Makes one 9-inch tart crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer,

Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

I eat one brussels sprout a year.

At Christmas.

Under duress.

Brussels Sprouts

It’s a family rule, though it punishes only me — the sole holdout in a family of sprout fanatics. With enough gravy to dunk the sprout in, I can power through the yearly ordeal.

This year, however, no one seemed to notice that my plate remained sprout-free. But it made me think: was there a way I could learn to love my vegetable nemesis? The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, and it involves spaghetti and bacon’s Italian cousin.

Behold, Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta I

Once I made the decision to try this recipe out, I made a shopping list. Somehow sprouts failed to make it onto the scrap of paper: it seems my subconscious couldn’t believe I really did want them.

At the Italian deli where I bought my pancetta, I wasn’t paying enough attention either. I think the idea was to use a couple of thickish slices of the cured meat that could then be sliced into matchsticks. My slices were thinner than regular bacon, so I just chopped it into small pieces. Considering thinner slices meant better pancetta distribution, I didn’t really see a problem.

Pancetta

I also didn’t notice the clerk was slicing up “hot” pancetta. But I kind of liked the kick of heat to this dish. If you like a little spice and can find hot pancetta, I say go for it. Otherwise, if you still want some heat, you can probably add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

The original recipe suggests using the slicing blade of a food processor to thinly slice the sprouts. The photo on the web-site shows lovely green pieces of sprout. I ended up with vegetable confetti. If you’re looking for pretty, I’d suggest trying the mandoline route. Otherwise, the food processor is fine.

While waiting for the spaghetti to finish cooking, I took a test bite of the sprout mix and couldn’t stop myself from eating more. Sure, any vegetable cooked with pancetta, pasta and pine nuts is probably going to be fantastic, but I really did enjoy the flavour of the sprouts.

Sauteed sprouts and pancetta

A quick saute with garlic and shallots, rounded out with just salt and pepper, brought a nice simplicity to the dish. And because the sprouts don’t cook for long, they were tender, not mushy.

Perhaps this is the start of a whole new, sprout-loving me.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta II

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta IV

Pasta with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

From The Kitchn

  • 1 lb (500 g) brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 6oz (170g)pancetta, diced or cut into strips
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chicken broth
  • 1/2lb (250g)spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and remove the toughest outer leaves. Shred them in a food processor, using the slicing attachment, or slice them carefully on a mandoline or as thinly as possible with a knife.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, until fairly crispy and cooked through. Clear some space in the middle of the pan and add the shallots. (If you don’t have enough room in your pan to create space, you can remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add it back in when you add the sprouts.) Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute or so.

While the shallots are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the brussels sprouts and the chicken broth to the large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and toss all of the ingredients together. (Go easy on the salt initially because pancetta can be quite salty.) Cook, tossing occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the skillet. You can add a splash of the pasta water (or more broth) if the mixture seems dry. Add pine nuts, toss everything together, season to taste and serve. Serves 3 to 4.