Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Posts in One Week and an Awesome Tart

I hosted dinner last night for friends in honor of a couple friends who are embarking on big journeys this week. One friend, Liz, is traveling to the brand new country of South Sudan tomorrow morning. She has "humanitarian" stamped into her passport. Incredible. And my friend Justin and his girlfriend Audrey are moving to Colorado on Thursday. Justin has never lived outside Omaha before, so this is sure to be a great adventure, one that should be marked off by a homey dinner with friends.

It's finally starting to get cold here, and with leftover turkey on my mind, I made two pot pies. One all mushrooms and one chicken. It actually took quite a bit of searching to come up with a meal plan. Justin is a vegetarian, so there couldn't be meat, but it's not exactly prime produce season and I didn't want to serve a bunch of sides. I leafed through what seemed like all my cookbooks (sometimes I can get obsessive), and finally found something on Nigel Slater's column about a mushroom shepherd's pie. It was an easy jump to pot pie (in theory). I have come to realize through my cakes final and my first year testing that I need a lot of work on finishing products. I start out strong, cover my bases with good technique, some expertise and quality ingredients. And then I've got to put the top on the pie, which it shall be noted was not in a pie shell, and I just throw it on. Of course it totally shrank in the oven. I may as well not have even topped it (the topless chicken pie turned out just fine).

I do this with everything I've come to realize. All projects. Writing a story; I get through the first draft and read through it and turn it in. I'll come back and give it some work, maybe. But by the end, I'm just doing the bare minimum. How do I motivate myself to put forth as much energy at the end as I do at the beginning when I'm absolutely slaving over coming up with the perfect lede for a story. Does anyone out there have any tips? One thing I can think of is practice. For example, if I'm well practiced at making petit fours, I can do them just as well after oh say 15 hours of work as I do after one hour. So there's something. But what about writing? If any of you have tips on that front, let me know!
I found three different kinds of mushrooms for the pot pie at Wohnler's: dried shiitake that I rehydrated, baby portobellos and oysters. Slater recommended pairing the mushrooms with a sliced leek, sauteing, deglazing with red wine and and lemon juice and adding vegetable stock before popping it in the oven. A couple heaping tablespoons of flour was plenty to thicken the stock to a stew inside the flaky pie crusts, and the pot pie turned out exactly how I had hoped: a sweet and woodsy hash with chunks of mushrooms. I treated the chicken pot pie in the same way, except added some extra celery and carrots that had been chilling in the freezer for a loooong time (yikes), almost as long as the chicken.

But the highlight of the meal was definitely dessert. I saw a recipe a for hazelnut-plum tart on Smitten Kitchen and made a mental note to make it as soon as there was time. (And I'll be making it again for work this week.) In absence of fresh plums, I used cranberries. It. was. incredible. The hazelnut butter crust was was crunchy with a bit of sweetness and just a hint of salt. The salt was the kicker. I love a salty dessert. And then there was the center. Creamy baked custard filled in the cracks around the tart little cranberries that just bled out juice under the heat of the oven. And to top it all was the rest of the hazelnut crumb crust and a little whipped cream (homemade, might I add). My good friend Dan has never ever eaten more than a polite bite of any desserts I have made (he doesn't like sweets) asked for a second slice--there wasn't any.

Mushroom Pot Pie:
Filling: by Nigel Slater
16 ounces assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 leek, sliced
a couple tabs of butter and glugs of oil, enough to get all the mushrooms
2 heaping tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons red wine or marsala
1 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper
fresh thyme
juice from half a lemon

Crust: from Tartine Bakery Cookbook yields two 9-inch pies
1 1/2 cups cold butter
16 ounces flour
1 cup ice cold water
1 teaspoon salt

I mix smaller batches of flaky crust by hand nowadays. I slice up the butter and add the flour and salt to it. Then I crumble up the butter with my fingers until they're about the size of peas, some smaller pieces some bigger. Then I add about half the water and stir with a wooden spoon. Then add only enough water until the dough comes together. I knead it a couple times, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour before rolling. This recipe makes enough for two whole pies with the tops, if you conserve your leftover pieces.

For the filling, slice up all the vegetables. Heat the oil on medium in a stock pot. Saute the leeks and the heartier mushrooms like portobellos, then add the shiitakes and oysters and the like. Saute until the moisture is starting to leech out of the mushrooms. Add the flour and stir to coat. Deglaze with the wine and the lemon juice. Then add the stock. Season throughout cooking with salt and pepper. It should taste good before it goes into the shell. Pour into the shell, pinch the top closed, brush with an egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until the crust is a nice golden brown.

Hazelnut Cranberry Tart: from Smitten Kitchen
Crust:
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted (this is a crucial step!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling
10 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toast the hazelnuts until they are light brown and nicely fragrant. Pulse in a food processor until coarsely ground. Combine with the butter, flour, salt and cinnamon, blending using your hands until the butter is the size of a pea. Use about two-thirds of the crumb mixture and press into the bottom of a tart pan or spring form. Bake at 350 degrees until "set," about 15 minutes. Let the crust cool a bit.

Add the cranberries and arrange on top of the crust. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Carefully pour over the cranberries. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes or until the custard has set and the top has browned a little. If you gently shake the tart and the center is visibly quite jiggly keep baking. But if it seems more solid than liquid pull it out, it will continue to set while it cools.


1 comment:

henzy said...

Mmm that tart looks good.