While cooking, listen to this: Sweet Potato Pie - Ray Charles & James Taylor
I've always been told that my eating habits are a little weird. I tend to eat small meals throughout the day (more time spent eating is always a plus in my book, anyway), eat little bits of things instead of one big item, like a sandwich or something, and I take really small bites. Like, really small. I can work at a croissant for three hours - I've timed myself, it's a personal record.
All of this is to say that eating out with friends, or just ordering in, can be a bit of a challenge because I like to eat in a very specific way. An ideal meal for me would include, say, some mashed avocado, cucumbers, cheddar slices, hearts of palm, triscuits and grapes. Just a ton of bits on a plate. Lucky for me, a friend I met in rabbinical school loves to eat this way as well, so for dinners together we put lots of veggies and dips on a board and go to town. Usually a cocktail is thrown in there, too.
Key to these dinners is dessert - we both love to cook, so we're constantly trying new things in the kitchen. We also both love ice cream almost as much as we love our boyfriends, so evenings usually end drunkenly with an empty container of Talenti (we are nothing if not classy). So, one day we decided to make cranberry curd to put on top of some vanilla ice cream - I found this recipe from The New York Times and just paid attention to the curd portion. It was SO unreal, like we actually couldn't believe how good it was. And we weren't even that drunk!
Thanksgiving is literally tomorrow, but in the blog world it feels like it's been Thanksgiving for WEEKS. Alyssa and I have been thinking about recipes for what seems like a year - we've already covered some buttery, carby sides, and now we're ready for some dessert. Thinking back to the cranberry curd I made, I figured it was time to complete the original recipe, which calls for pouring it into a roasted hazelnut crust and baking it into a tart. Like, hello, how amazing does that sound.
Roasting the hazelnuts will make your house smell the way I imagine that tree full of cookie elves smells. It only takes about 15 minutes, and it'll make the tart all the more flavorful. The cranberry curd will continue to make your house smell amazing, and you will feel like a boss chef for making something that seems difficult but is actually quite easy to make - it just requires a careful eye and some practice. A note about the curd, though - this happened to me when I made the curd alone, and when I made the tart. At first, the cranberry liquid is a gorgeous jewel tone, but with the addition of eggs and butter it goes from beautiful to a slightly nauseating shade. I've read comments online about how to get around this, but I ended up just adding a few drops of red food coloring to get the cranberry color back. If you aren't into food dyes, which I totally get, you can try using a teeny bit of beet juice, or maybe this color doesn't bother you and you don't need to add anything.
Alright, here is where I get a bit woo-woo: totally unoriginal thought, but it really does feel like the world is crashing around us. The sheer amount of madness circulating through the news is disorienting, and it can be really fucking hard to see anything remotely positive. Alyssa is the optimist in our work relationship, with me being what I'd like to think is a realist but is probably at least semi-cynic, so while I would like to say that Thanksgiving this year feels erroneous because everything is awful and Thanksgiving is actually a pretty problematic holiday, what I'm going to say is that, horrific holiday history aside, it feels important to recognize and take stock of the good in our lives. Maybe that's really hard to do - maybe it feels like there isn't anything good, and maybe there isn't, but there is a strange beauty in being grateful for really tiny things, like, say, a morning cup of coffee, or corgis, or being able to get out of bed. In a world that appears to be crumbling, this is the stuff that will keep it from disintegrating completely. This is the good stuff.
Okay, ex-rabbinical student tangent over. My wish for you this holiday season is to be surrounded by people who make you feel loved, who make you feel your best, who embrace your weird eating habits and eat sliced veggies and guac right alongside you. This is the good stuff.
Love and meows, Rina
CRANBERRY CURD TART WITH ROASTED HAZELNUT CRUST
Yield: 8 servings
Active Cook Time: 20-25m | Total Cook Time: 1h 40m
Category: Sweet, Tarts, Thanksgiving
Source: slightly adapted from The New York Times
Special Equipment: food processor, food mill/sieve, tart pan
For the roasted hazelnut crust:
1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour*
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons softened butter
For the cranberry curd:
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
Juice and peel from 1 orange (about ¼ cup juice)
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces/1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
Few drops red dye, optional
*The original recipe calls for rice flour, which makes this dessert gluten-free. We used regular all-purpose flour and were totally fine, so you can use the flour that works for your lifestyle.
Roast the hazelnuts: preheat the oven to 325 and place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the skins go all dark and crackly. Your house is going to smell amazing. Take out of the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then once they can be handled, remove the skins by placing the hazelnuts between a towel and rubbing vigorously. You will feel weird about this. That's okay. It's also okay if not all of the skin comes off - bits here are there are totally fine.
Prepare the crust: to your food processor, add the hazelnuts and ½ cup of the flour. Pulse until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Add the rest of the flour and salt, and pulse a few more times to fully incorporate. Add the sugar and butter to a mixing bowl and cream for 1-2 minutes using a wooden spoon, until mixture is pale and thick. Add the nut/flour mixture and mix well to combine. I just used my hands at this point, so much easier. Our dough didn't, but if yours looks a little crumbly, add a teeny bit of cold water at a time until the dough comes together.
Form and freeze the crust: press the dough into the tart pan, using about half for the bottom and about half for the sides. Make sure everything is even. Prick with a fork all over (also known as "docking"), and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up.
Prepare the curd: while the tart shell is cooling down, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the cranberries, sugar, orange peel, and orange and lemon juices. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the sugar is dissolved and the cranberries begin to pop. Your house will now smell even more amazing than it did before. Have your butter nearby. Run this mixture through a food mill or mesh sieve and place a bowl underneath to collect the liquid. Discard the pulp. Add the butter to the liquid and stir until totally melted.
Temper the curd**: lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl. Slowly add a cup of the warm liquid to the eggs and whisk, then add this mixture back to the bowl with the rest of the liquid and mix well. Wipe out the saucepan if necessary, and then pour this mixture back in. Place on low heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until bubbling and thick. It might seem like nothing is happening in there, but be patient! It'll thicken up on you REAL fast.
At this point you might be thinking, good lord what a hideous color. It's highly likely that your curd will be ugly - I've made this curd multiple times and each time it has been ghastly. Never fear! If you're down with food dyes, add a few drops of red at a time, stirring well, until you get your desired color. If you're using it immediately, let it cool down to room temperature. If you're making it in advance, still cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap (pressed onto the curd, to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate. You can keep it like this for about a day in there.
**To get beautiful curd instead of cranberry scrambled eggs, the eggs need to be tempered, which basically means to heat them up slowly so that they won't go crazy and cook super fast once they're added to the liquid.
Blind bake the crust: once the tart shell is ready to go, bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown (not too dark!). Allow to cool slightly before adding curd.
Bake the tart: pour the cooled cranberry curd into the cooled tart shell, and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until curd is set.
To serve: allow to cool completely before serving, or you'll end up with a bit of a runny mess on your hands.
To keep: wrapped in plastic wrap or foil, or placed in a tightly-sealed container, this tart will last in the fridge for 2-3 days, but I highly doubt this is a problem you'll run into.