holidays & recipes: mixed berry tartlet with crème anglaise pastry cream
Today is Earth Day. Hopefully, like New Years, everyone is making a resolution. Maybe you will resolve to recycle or use your car less or grow an organic vegetable garden. Hopefully, everyone will do a good job of sticking to that resolution. One year I made an Earth Day resolution that my family railed against. I decided that I was going to become a vegetarian and, therefore, everyone would become a vegetarian. As you can imagine, in a household of men who were accustomed to eating meat, this went over like a lead balloon.
I had an epiphany during early spring of 2008. I was trimming chicken for dinner. It is well known throughout my family that I abhor touching raw meat. I don’t like the way it smells or feels. This is odd for someone that loves to cook and even odder for someone who enjoys a good burger, steak or roasted chicken.
I was standing in my kitchen, trimming the chicken, when it had occurred to me that I was a big ole’ hypocrite. I asked myself this question: “If I had to kill the chicken, would I do it?” The answer was “no”. So, if I, theoretically, had to kill the chicken and I know that I wouldn’t, than why would it be okay if someone else did it for me? This thought stayed with me, when on Earth Day of 2008, I informed my family that we were going to become vegetarians.
Their reaction went something like this: “WHAT?!!! What are we going to eat? WHY?!!” The “why” went beyond my own disgust with handling raw meat. I knew that omitting meat, particularly red meat, would be healthier for our bodies and it would also be healthier for the environment. I was aware that the beef and poultry industry was not good for our environment. The inhumanity of the industry is also horrific.
I explained these facts to my family. Not eating meat would be better for everyone, us and the animals as well as the environment. I don’t think the men heard a word of what I was saying. They were muttering, whining and humphing. I believe that one of the three said something like “I’m going to get a t-shirt that says ’meataterian’.”
My family, despite griping and whining, gave it a whirl. The whirl lasted almost a year. My resolution to become a vegetarian faded slowly as concessions were made: I agreed to cook meat on holidays, then once a month, then on Fridays…” I think they humored me, led me to feel safe and then went on a very sneaky attack, slowly destroying my defenses. Before I knew it we were eating meat again on a regular basis. My 2008 resolution was a failure.
I’ve learned my lesson. Lifestyles do not change overnight. I expected my family to embrace my resolution. I realize, now, that I went about it the wrong way. I forced them to go cold turkey. I’ve decided to have a go at the 2008 resolution again. I’ve modified my goals. Instead of becoming vegetarians I am introducing my family to the term “flexitarian”.
Flexitarian is a recently coined term. It describes someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, but on occasion, will eat meat (organic, local meat purchased at my local butchers). I think my family will be more receptive to this idea. Or…wait…Have they already become flexitarians? You see, I’ve adopted the tactics of my “enemy”. I’ve slowly omitted meat as a staple of our diet. I’ve decreased the amount enough to be significant, but not enough for them to notice. And, since ignorance is bliss, this might be the Earth Day resolution that sticks.
I thought about doing a veggie recipe, but instead my sweet tooth took over when I started to see the season’s first fresh strawberries and I made this delicious little raspberry and strawberry tartlet. You might say I’m a “sweetarian”.
Mixed Berry Tartlet with Pastry Cream
Tart Dough (Martha Stewart)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup ice water
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1. In a small bowl, mix together salt and water. Keep very cold until ready to use.
2. Place flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly until mixture forms large crumbs. Add the salt water mixture and continue pulsing until dough has just formed but is not smooth.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, evenly divide dough. Form each piece of dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
4. When ready to use preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Roll out the dough. Cut circles large enough to accommodate your tartlet pan. With the dough left over, roll into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
6. Use the second disc to continue.
7. Once you’ve used the second disc repeat step 5. Depending on how many tartlets you will make, you can save the remains of dough, making into one disc and freezing for future use. Or, you can repeat the process once the dough re-chills in order to make more tartlets.
8. Place tartlets in the oven and bake until golden brown. If the dough begins to bubble on the bottom gently (and carefully) poke the bottom with a fork to release the steam. The holes will more or less close up while it finishes baking.
9. When finished baking, cool tartlet shells completely before filling.
Crème Anglaise (Pierre Herme)
2 cups whole milk
1 plump, moist vanilla bean , split and scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch , sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened and cut into 3 pats (1 3/4 ounces)
1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and allow the milk to infuse for at least 10 minutes or for up to 1 hour.
2. If the milk has cooled, it will need to be reheated now.
3. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle one-quarter of the hot milk over the yolks. When the yolks are warm, whisk the remainder of the milk into the yolks in a steadier stream; remove and discard the pod (or save it to make vanilla sugar).
4. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil—still whisking energetically—for 1 to 2 minutes before pulling the pan from the heat and pressing the cream through a sieve into the small bowl. Let the cream sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter. Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap—press the wrap against the cream—and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. You can speed up the chill by putting the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. (Keeping: Covered tightly with plastic wrap, pastry cream can be refrigerated for 2 days. To smooth the chilled cream, whisk it for a few seconds.).
1. Fill cooled tartlet shells with the crème anglaise. Place berries of your choice on top and serve immediately.
2. If not serving immediately do not place berries on top. You can refrigerate the filled shells for a few hours* and then right before serving place the berries on top.
Note: I don’t like leaving the tarts filled for too long. I think this is tastes best when freshly assembled. It is fast and easy to assemble so try to do it right before serving. If you have all your components ready it won’t take long to assemble.