Tarte Citron, the Champagne of Desserts

When I was in middle school, my mother, my sister, and I went on a road trip. I don’t remember where we were going or where we were coming from, but I remember a sign on an empty country highway that announced a roadside book sale coming up in one mile.

“Mom, can we stop? Plllleeeaaasse?”

“Oh, all right.”

On this day I had my very first cookbook buying spree. I bought six cookbooks, and one of them was De Gustibus Presents: French Cooking for the Home. Twelve different French chefs create 12 different menus for 12 different occasions.

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I have cooked many of the recipes over the years. I made Jacques Pepin’s Scallopine of Turkey Breast with Morel and Cognac Sauce for Thanksgiving of 2001, the one year anniversary of my parents’ divorce. My father, the fryer/roaster/briner/experimenter of the turkey, was gone. I took advantage of the food power vacuum and subjected my family to a three course meal taken from the pages of French Cooking for the Home. Looking over my notes from 13 years ago, I remember my horror at the cost of the ingredients. It would still be quite a few years before I began the process of learning how to appreciate simplicity in cooking and life over elaborate fanfare.

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I made the Wild Mushroom Crepes for my mom’s birthday the following year. My future stepfahter and stepsisters were there for that meal, one of the last I cooked in the house I grew up in. I made a modified version of the Thin Apple Tart for paying customers at the bagel shop. And I made the Christian Delouvrier’s Tarte Citron for extra credit in my French 102 class in college. I remember sitting around the table in my apartment with my partner and squeezing lemon after lemon after lemon. My life smelled like lemons for at least a month after making this tart. I made it again last week as part of a friend’s successful green card quest celebration. And this time around, I used a juicer.

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My tart.

 

Here’s what the books author has to say about this recipe:

This is a perfectly sublime ending to a rich, complex dinner. Once assembled, the tart requires only a minute under the broiler and then an hour to set, making it a breeze to prepare.

With a juicer, it really is a breeze to prepare. Without one, the one cup of fresh lemon juice becomes a bit like one of Psyche’s more boring challenges. Like separating different legumes into piles.

The first time around, I remember Madame Roland eating the tart and saying, “Oh la la, just like in la France!” and I gave a little bow for the class. For my more recent tart, one of the revelers declared it the champagne of desserts. A slightly bigger bow. Incidentally, a brut sparkler would be the perfect thing to drink with the tarte citron.

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Tom Eckerle’s sexy lemon tart photograph from the book.

 

Lemon Tart

You will need:

½ pound frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about six lemons)

6 large eggs

5 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a light floured surface, roll out the pastry about 1/8 inch thick into a circle approximately 12 inches around. Transfer the pastry to the tart pan. Gently fit the pastry into the pan, and cut away any excess with a sharp knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.

In the top half of a double boiler, combine the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Set over simmering water. Beat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and clings to the beater. *

Remove from the heat. Using a whisk, whisk in the butter a little at a time.** Pour the custard into the partially baked pastry shell. Place under the double broiler for 1 minute. LITERALLY 60 SECONDS. DON’T MESS AROUND WITH THE DOUBLE BROILER. YOU WILL GET BURNED. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Garnish with raspberries before serving, if you so wish. Or strawberries, or blackberries. Or fresh basil or mint.

*I made the custard ahead of time and kept it in the fridge for overnight for convenience purposes. It worked out wonderfully, so this is an option.

**Since I forgot this step and accidentally included the butter in the double boiler with the rest of the ingredients, I’m skeptical about how necessary this is.

Adapted from French Cooking for the Home.

Eggs Benedict, the Love Recipe

At some point during the last week, I had a conversation with my dad. Over the course of this conversation, he did some mewing and  complaining about not being busy enough during work.  I was a little resentful.  

“Learn a language, Dad!” I said.  He raised an eyebrow.  “Then invent something!  Something useful!” He just shook his head morosely.  

“I already did.”

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No matter what my father says, DO NOT USED CANNED MUSHROOMS.

The next day, while staring at my computer screen and mentally flipping through the millions of things I had to do, I felt more resentful.  So I sent him an email with the heading A VERY IMPORTANT ASSIGNMENT FOR YOU.  The first line read, “Since you’re so bored, and have nothing to do, I demand that you write an article for my blog.”

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Best with a sparkler, just like everything else in the world.

 

And that is how I have come to share my dad’s Eggs Benedict recipe with the world.  This is how my father woos the ladies.  Having used it to woo a few mens in my time, I recommend exercising the power you are now receiving with discretion.  That is to say, only cook this recipe for people who are already in love with you.  Cooking Eggs Benedict for people who are not yet in love with you is an abuse of power.  No one can resist this shit.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a guest post by my father.

*****

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Slicing the baby portobello mushrooms.

 

There is no better way to make the one you love feel special than to make breakfast in bed!  My favorite way to make my wife feel special is with a fantastic breakfast in bed. The best breakfast in bed is hands down Eggs Benedict.

 

You will need:

  • English muffins
  • One stick of butter
  • Sliced mushrooms canned or cooked in butter.  Not canned, for the love of Pete.
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Not canned mushrooms…
  • Six eggs two poached and remainder separated and yoke reserved.
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Separating six egg yokes for the Hollandaise sauce.

 

  • Two lemons
  • Your favorite sliced ham.
  • Two table spoons of vinegar.
  • Poached asparagus spears
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White asparagus is grown in complete darkness. The spears never develops chlorophyll because they never see the sun.

 

Here is how it is done!

Separate four eggs and mix the yokes with the melted stick of butter. This should be done in a double boiler but can be done in a standard pan with constant whisking. On low heat whisk the mixture until it reaches the correct thickness then add the juice of the two lemons to the sauce.

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Whisk! Very quickly!

Poach the eggs in water with the two tablespoons of vinegar.  The vinegar will keep the eggs whites from making egg soup the whites will stay with the yoke much better. Heat the ham toast the English muffin and assemble by first placing the ham on the toasted English muffin then add the poached egg and cover with your Hollandaise sauce. Top with the sliced mushrooms. And serve the asparagus tips on the side.

 

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No one can resist…

 

This will make you a hero with your love!