In spite of all of the worldly experiences I may have had as a child, all the exotic, far away places with new cuisines and long histories and strange customs, I’m really just a girl from Decatur, Illinois. It’s a small city smack in the middle of corn and soybean fields in the center of the state. It’s where my parents met in high school and my grandparents all lived out their days. I went to college here, just like my parents and aunts and uncles did, I think in part because in spite of having hardly spent any time here, there was something comfortingly familiar about the bucolic, oh, so mid-American life it offered. Sadly, much of our extended family has scattered hither and yon just like my sisters and me, and Decatur itself has seen better days, its industrial heyday fallen by the wayside as it has in so many American towns. We don’t really get back that way anymore, but the memories remain of summer days at the South Side Country Club playing tennis and swimming, cruising down Eldorado Street, Elam’s Root Beer Stand, family BBQs.
So it is to this culinary repertoire that I find myself pulled when I most want to cook from the heart. As much as I’m nostalgic for the flavors of Russia and Turkey, these are the recipes of my family, my heritage, embedded somehow in my DNA. It was with this in mind that I sat thinking about what I could cook my dear husband when he arrives home tomorrow after more than four weeks in Sochi covering the Olympics. And maybe it’s because it’s around my Grandma Elma’s birthday and also my mother’s birthday this week, that I literally started to taste this nutmeg cream tart in my mind. My Grandma Elma used to make this often when we visited in the summer, using store-bought pie shells from a recipe passed down from her mother and so on and so on.
Inspiration firmly settled, I retrieved the binder my mother created a couple of Christmases ago, full of our family’s recipes along with tons of photos (I don’t know that I’ve ever cried when I’ve been given anything, but this gift found me more than a little teary). However, looking at the recipe also reminded me that she had since said that the quantities were off. The original recipe’s instructions were terribly vague: “Fill shell with cream up to the top.” So I measured out how much liquid my rectangular tart shell would hold and worked backwards a bit, calculating flour and sugar ratios. This is what I’ve come up with and I believe it would work for a standard round tart as well. The chutney recipe is similar to one I make at Thanksgiving, but with the addition of orange flower water to just give it a little oomph! This recipe makes a lot because, well, I like to snack on it. Hey, it’s fruit, right?
for the tart shell:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water
In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the flour, butter and salt until pebble-like mixture forms. Be careful not to work the dough too much as it will become tough. Add the water slowly through the feed tube and continue to pulse until the dough comes together. Turn it out onto the counter and form into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once it’s chilled, lightly flour your surface and roll out to the appropriate size for your tart shell and place it in the pan pressing it in lightly and trimming the edges. Now put it back in the fridge for another 30 minutes and prepare the filling.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the flour and sugar. Once your tart shell has chilled, sprinkle this mixture into the bottom of the tart pan, now pour the heavy cream over the top, dot the top with butter and liberally grate nutmeg all over it. Carefully place the tart on the middle rack of your oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes and then place it in the fridge and allow to cool completely.
1 large quince, peeled and small diced
2 bartlett pears, peeled and small diced
2 cups cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup white wine
2 teaspoons orange flower water (optional)
In one saucepan combine the quince, pear and 2/3 cup of wine. Allow to come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is tender. In another saucepan bring one cup of wine and the sugar to a boil, now add the cranberries and cook on medium heat. They should pop and sputter all over the place. Help them out by squishing some of them. After 15 minutes you should have a thick cranberry sauce. Combine the two saucepans in a heatproof bowl (make sure not to add too much liquid from the quince and pear mixture) and add the orange flower water). Let cool and then chill until ready to serve.