Thanksgiving, Tart and Sweet
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
When I was sixteen, my friend Jette and I hopped on a bus to New York late, late the night before Thanksgiving. The ride took nearly the whole night, and we arrived in the city just as the sun was starting to come up. We sat on the sidewalk and watched the massive balloons inflate for the Macy’s parade. We wandered the empty city, resting in parks with the pigeons. (I know, I know. What did our mothers say? Honestly, I don’t even remember.) It was a gray day, and we had no plan. Somehow, we got on a train and ended up at a friend’s house outside of Philadelphia. I don’t remember how we got the invitation, but I do remember sitting at his fancy table with his very proper family, struggling to use my knife and fork correctly. I remember being bleary with sleeplessness and thankful to be in that strange and warm place. I remember that Jette and I were proud of ourselves for stepping out of the lines, for making the holiday an adventure, and for making the holiday our very own.
Four years later, my friend Eilen and I cooked for days, and we invited every straggler we could find. My parents were there, too, visiting our woodsy home in Santa Fe. Eilen and I rolled and chopped and baked, and we were grownups in our own kitchen. We, too, made that holiday our own.
We’ve had Thanksgivings with friends and Thanksgivings with family. We have cooked and been cooked for. Every year has been different. But through these years with all of those meals, we are always finding ways to make the holiday our own.
I woke up thinking about this tart last week. It’s easy to put together, and the maple, cranberry, and orange sing to each other in a way that brings out the best in each.
Cranberry Maple Tart
Serves 8 to 10, or thereabouts
For the crust:
scant 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 stick+1 tablespoon (4.5 ounces) cold, unsalted butter (cubed) plus extra for greasing the pan
the zest and juice of 1 orange (this will be in both the crust and the filling)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
3 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lightly grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter. Combine the flour, butter, orange zest, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse about 10 times. Add the egg and 1 tablespoon orange juice, reserving the rest of the juice for the filling. Process just until the dough comes together around the blade. If it’s too crumbly, you can add another teaspoon of juice.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is a circle at least 14 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the tart pan out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you are ready to bake. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, peeking in to gently press down any air bubbles that might rise in the crust over that time. Remove the crust from the oven, but leave the heat on.
Combine the cranberries, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup, brown sugar, and remaining orange juice (it should be about 1/4 cup) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the berries burst and the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, vanilla, remaining 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and salt in a mixing bowl.
Spread the cranberry mixture into the crust, then pour the cream mixture over it. Put the tart pan on top of a baking sheet and bake until the top is firm and golden, about 40 minutes.
Allow the tart to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. If preparing a day or two ahead (totally fine- this holds up beautifully!), store in the refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature for at least an hour before serving. This is good on it’s own, but also lovely with whipped cream. I served it with orange flower whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream+1 tablespoon sugar+1 teaspoon orange flour water). —Alana Chernila