Saturday, March 18, 2006

The right pan for the job

Tarts have been on my mind since the very first days I began dabbling in baking. But, the sad truth is, until this past weekend, no proper tart has ever emerged from my oven. In my crammed New York kitchen, I’ve turned out a few tart recipes in those flimsy disposable pie pans acquired at the supermarket and a few more in their rustic free forms. Perhaps some would refer to these as tarts, but I’ve never thought it prudent to anoint them such. In my lexicon, a proper tart referred strictly to a pastry of sweet or savory filling embraced by a delicate but structured shell with immaculately creased straight edges. This shell must be strong enough to stand as the lone barrier between the outside world and the creamy softness inside but flaky enough to crumble effortlessly when encountering the teeth. Such a shell could not be produced in a disposable aluminum pie pan or, for that matter, any pie pan where the crust, not shell, is supported by the sloped pan edge and remained mostly unseen. The free form pastries that are often referred to as rustic tarts, in my mind, bared no resemblance in appearance, texture, or taste to the “proper tarts” of my liking. What is required to make such a “proper tart” is a tart pan having fluted straight sides and a removable bottom, upon which the cooled tart may be lifted to reveal its gently crinkled edges. Until recently, I did not own such a pan.

My very own pretty tart pan came into my life upon a chance meeting in the much loved Cook’s Warehouse here in Atlanta. I was there to pick up my knives, which were dearly missed during their one week trip to the knife sharpener. While the lady at the counter went to retrieve the knives, I took a stroll down a very narrow aisle jam-packed with all sorts of equipments and gadgets that I never knew existed, but desperately needed once I laid eyes on them. Trying to take in all the colorful offerings, I was soon doing 360s in the aisle like a puppy trying to catch his own tail. One turn brought about a loud “bang” as a bundt pan tumbled from the rack upon which it was perching dangerously. Hoping not to attract the counter lady, I tried to quickly slide the pan back into its spot on a shelf much too tall for me. Something on the shelf prevented the pan from going in properly despite my muscling. Just as I was about to give up and go look for another resting place for the bundt pan, the shop lady appeared suddenly and pulled out an adorable chrome tart pan from the spot on the rack that refused to take the bundt pan in. It was love at first sight and the rest is history.

Fast forward to this past Sunday afternoon, after a perfect road trip to a little town by the river and a few glasses of a crisp pinot in the spring breeze, J and I returned home relaxed, satisfied, but hungry. Not much was left in the fridge and we were too settled in to go out. While looking for a salad bowl in the cupboard, a shade of chrome caught the last ray of the setting sun outside. So dinner would be a quick tart served along side a fresh salad. What a way to initiate spring.

Two Onion Tart

Adopted from Orangette and André Soltner in The New York Times, October 20, 2003
Makes 6 slices

Your own tart or pie shell or ½ recipe of Martha Stewart’s recipe
1 T olive oil
1 lb yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
a pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line a 9” removable-bottom tart shell with the tart shell recipe and chill in the fridge.
3. Sauté the onions and spring onions in the olive oil on medium heat until soft and lightly browned.
4. Mix the egg, cream, and cooked onions with a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
5. Fill the tart shell with the mixture and bake for about 25 minutes until the filing is golden.

1 comment:

L said...

what a great story about Cook's World. I know how you feel... I can't enter a kitchen store without finding about 10 new things that I must have.

The tart looks lovely!