Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mission: Tomato Tart

This week we're off to a mysterious land known as Connecticut, exploring one of its darkest corners - known by the locals as Grennitch - to visit two dear friends who will soon be transported off to the British Crown Colony of Bermuda; where apparently there are all sorts of devilish things in store for them. (Things like rum, linen suits, reinsurance, expensive lemons, and the like.)

Our mission this week was to create the Tomato Tart - using an unfamiliar kitchen and untried (by us) tools. All missions require planning, and so we first created our mis en place:

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As you can see, unfamiliar territory - but we shall prevail! As you can see we've prepped our pastry and had it chilling since the night before, wrapped in wax paper, assuming the proper consistency. It's still a smidge early for tomatoes in Connecticut - at least in Grennitch - but we were able to find some lookers at the local Whole Foods grocery mart, as seen here:

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And so we were off! Melissa kindly took to slicing the tomatoes wafer thin while Jacob patiently plucked the teensy little leaves off an otherwise unsuspecting herb:

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And during this, our host Kris kindly whipped up the bechamel base for us:

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Isn't that ball whisk a looker? We're definitely going to get one. Because the three whisks we have are suddenly obsolete. Anyhoohah, once that was placed in a chilled bowl, we were ready for the second meez:

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Now comes the time on Sprockets when Jacob does battle with the pastry. Continuing to learn from previous disasters experiences, we had kept the dough in the fridge until the very last moment, and then once we got to work, we worked as quickly as possible, so quickly that there's but one picture of that process:

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And we are happy, beyond happy, to report that we were able to not only get the dough rolled out properly and quickly, we were able to get it up off the granite and onto parchment for the assembly, just so:

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And so assemble we did:

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And then into the oven at high heat for a very short period of time (20 minutes or so) and then out it came, looking like this:

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For a moment it looked like that. Then we ate it up. Greedily.

So the day before we made this dish we met some other friends in Algonquin Manhattan, and ate some really good pizza at a place on 3rd in the Mid-80's. It was really good - super good - a real good thin crust pizza, so good that you could just get a margarita or a white pie and be perfectly happy (we did actually get one of each, in addition to a pepperoni for good measure). It was one of those pizzas that makes an east coast transplant (like Jacob) suddenly sharp pangs of nostalgia and regret - nostalgia for the primeval feelings that for some reason surround pizza when you grow up on the eastern seaboard, regret because that dish really doesn't exist west of, say, the Susquehanna river - and maybe not even that far west - and no one has ever come close to having a reasonable explanation as to why that is, exactly. (Jacob thinks it's the water, but Jacob is full of it sometimes.) Basically which is to say, that those pizzas were freakin' good, much better than what we can get in the Bay Area at any price.

These tarts reminded some of us of those pizzas. Sure - okay - fresh pastry topped with fresh ingredients, made just across the sound from Long Island. Same air - different water, but same basic atmosphere; right? But there's no bechamel sauce on those Manhattan zas, nor is there nutmeg, nor did we fire these tarts in a pizza oven, or on a stone. But there was a resemblance, absolutely, and while there was some discussion about the cheese - gruyere was called for and used, half of us liked it, half of us thought maybe something different would be better next time - none of us were really unhappy about the result.

Not even close.

Note to selves: Get a ball whisk! What a clever device! And cute too!

Time, mis to eat: 45 minutes, not including the overnight chill for the pastry dough.

Next up: It's HOT in the Bay Area so we're going with... Maple Ice Cream with Maple Cotton Candy. Yeah, you read that right.

Blast from the past: The last time we made a tart, Jacob had a lot to learn - or, he claims, remember - about pastry.

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