Sunday, December 19, 2010

Butter Tarts

Last night was a bit unbelievable. But, the story starts at the beginning of the week. Knowing we had this party to attend on Saturday evening, I started thinking of what food I might make to bring. I was watching a(nother) recorded episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" which showed chefs making their very favorite item for the holidays. One chef was making butter tarts, which I had never heard of before, but how could something called a butter tart be anything but great, right? I watched him make dough with lots of butter, and a filling of brown sugar, raisins and more butter. Sold!

Immediately I thought "I need to make these!" and then quickly remembered the upcoming party. Perfect! Because any recipe that uses nearly a pound of butter should definitely be shared with friends, and preferably brought to someone else's house to avoid eating all the leftovers!
We arrived at the party on Saturday evening with an over-sized platter of warm tarts. As I found a place to set the tray down, I explained that these were call butter tarts and that I learned about them from watching a tv show earlier in the week.

Now, here's where things took a turn for the unbelievable. The guys at the party knew what they were! See, the party was full of hockey friends, many of whom are Canadian. And, apparently butter tarts are traditional Canadian treat!! Crazy. What are the odds of randomly picking a brand new recipe to try out for a party, and it turns out to be a favorite of the host and their guests?

Butter Tarts
Inspired by Beau MacMillan's Carmelized Butter Tarts

Chez Pim's perfect pie dough
Since I can't do a better job of blogging the 'how to' than Pim already has, use her site for a perfect pie crust tutorial to see how simple ingredients with a straightforward technique can yield an unbelievable crust.

1/3 Cup butter
1 Cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla

Divide dough into 18 pieces and press into tart pans. Put pans with dough in the fridge until ready to fill.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cover raisins with hot water and let stand. Melt the butter, brown sugar and milk in saucepan and stir until the sugar starts to dissolve. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. Add vanilla, whisk in the egg and (drained) raisins.

Divide the filling among the tarts and bake until bubbly, about 25 minutes.

*Some notes- I used muffin pans, doubled the filling recipe above, and divided the dough into 24 pieces. I also par-baked the crust, which I would not do again, as some of the filling seeped out and practically cemented itself to the bake sheet. With that thought, I checked other recipes and discovered that some cream the butter & brown sugar instead of melting it on the stovetop, so that might help keep things in place next time. And there *will* be a next time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Green Tomato Pickles

I haven't eaten a pickled green tomato in at least 20 years. Growing up, I separated the delicatessens into two categories - ones that offered killer kosher pickles while you waited for your food, and ones that offered killer kosher pickles AND tomato pickles. Sadly, down here in TX, the only time I've seen a green tomato in a restaurant was a fried offering on a menu. (A confession: I thought Fried Green Tomatoes was something created for the movie.)
Last month our CSA delivered green tomatoes and I gave our share to a friend who was excited to fry them up. The following week more tomatoes came, and another friend wanted to make fried green tomatoes. (Another confession: I have actually tried fried green tomatoes and they are pretty tasty!) The CSA kept sending more green tomatoes each week, and I suddenly remembered I could make pickles out of them! That week I called dibs.
I went to my recipe I use for pickling daikon (one of Charlotte's absolute favorite things - "more pickled radish please!") which uses apple cider vinegar and a mix of pickling spices. But, after running out of vinegar and breaking a jar while processing the first batch, I went to the store to load up on plain old white vinegar and dill seed so I could follow Marisa's pickled tomato advice. Ironically, she published a post about breaking jars about 5 minutes after I had blown the bottom out of mine. Side note: I've never bought dill seed before but I *must* find something else to make with them - they smell fantastic! Side note #2: I don't actually know Marisa, but my sister does so I'm taking that license to use her first name in my post.
And, I can't believe I haven't eaten a green tomato pickle in 20 years. Yes, that is present tense. Because they guys were just jarred yesterday, so I've got to wait at least a week before breaking the seal. Just to tease me, the recorded show I chose to watch off the DVR this evening was an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. And as I watched Michael Psilakis talk about his favorite garlicky sandwich from Katz's Deli, I paused the screen as he was about to take a bite and sure enough there were pickles AND pickled tomatoes sitting on his plate.

Green Tomato Pickles
Adapted from Food in Jars

3 lbs green tomatoes
2 C white vinegar
2 C water
2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon dill seed
10 whole garlic cloves

5 pint mason jars
canning supplies

1. Make brine of vinegar, water & salt. Heat to simmer and salt dissolves.
2. Wash green tomatoes and cut in wedges.
3. Sterilize jars and in each hot jar use clean hands to carefully place tomato wedges, two garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dill seed. (Marisa added whole peppercorns and bay leaves - I intentionally omitted the bay, but complete forgot about peppercorn.)
4. Simmer lids, pour hot brine on top of tomatoes, apply warmed lids and screw on bands.
5. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
6. Remove and place on a dish towel or cooling rack. Let cool completely and ensure jars have sealed before storing in the pantry. If one doesn't seal, put it in the fridge instead.
7. Wait at least a week, or up to a year.