Monday, March 24, 2008

Twists: Lemon Tart with Somethin' Extra

Last summer, when we were in Chicago, I got to spend some time with my dear friend Nicole, who lives in France but was in the States visiting family. When we met she gave me this pretty little jar saying, "I have no idea what you do with it but I thought it was fun". Confit de violette? Violet jelly?

Well, sure. I'm not at all opposed to the use of flowers in cuisine. I have had some very lovely experiences with edible flowers.. the peppery nip of nasturtiums in a summer salad, a breathtaking rose ice cream...and though I say it myself, I do some rather nice things with lavender honey (grilled duck breast and a chicken/chevre thing, to name a few).

When I got the confit home I opened it. Holy mother! The fragrance was intense. Intense in a "dab some, sparingly, on all your pulse points" sort of way. Which gave me pause because the complaint I hear most often about flowers in food is that it makes the diner think she is eating linen water. In fact, 2 or 3 people said words to that effect at my Easter table last night. Only in this case, they were comments of surprise, because the guests were eating a lemon curd tart with confit de violette and they loved it.

It had occurred to me that the light purple of the confit would be a nice accent on the bright yellow of the tart. To confirm, I had tasted the confit and, to my surprise, the strong perfume wasn't present in the jelly itself. Oh, it tasted of violet to be sure, but it had a much mellower, less perfumy flavor than I had thought it would. So, what the heck?

The only problem was that when I tried to pipe the jelly onto the tart it was entirely too slippery to make the little beads I'd envisioned. So I ended up just spreading it gently onto the tart, which was then covered with a layer of whipped cream.

It was a magical pairing. The tongue first took the tart of the lemon, barely noticing the violet until the floral notes opened up in the back of the throat...a little sweet whisper on a cloud of lemon and cream.

The good news? The product (and many other delicious sounding treats) are available on the web for only a few euros per pot.

Lemon Curd Tart with Confit de violette

Prebake pie crust in a tart pan and allow to cool.

Lemon Curd
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
zest from the lemons
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature

In the top of a double boiler, combine the sugar, butter, juice and zest. Place pan directly over moderate high heat and stir until sugar melts.

Beat together the eggs and egg yolk and strain into hot mixture, stirring constantly. (You don't need to temper the eggs if you stir quickly enough because it leaks slowly through the strainer).
Cook over barely simmering water for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, or until the mixture has thickened quite a bit. It will thicken up more as it cools but you want it to have a good start.

Pour the curd into a jar or bowl, cover tightly with buttered waxed paper and chill. The curd will keep for up to 3 weeks.

Note: you can make orange curd in the same way; simply substitute orange juice and zest for the lemon.

Whipped Cream
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. sugar

Whip cream until thick. Stir in vanilla and sugar.

Spread crust with lemon curd. Dot confit on top of the curd. Spread with a thin layer of whipped cream

I would have taken a prettier picture of the tart but it was practically gone before I remembered to pull out the camera.


Nicole said...

I knew you'd do something fabulous with it. Oh I wish wish wish I had been there for some.

Lorraine said...

Me too, Nic. You would have been exceedingly pleased.

Buck said...

Get out the Scrabble tiles. I'm coming back to your place.

Kimberly Ann said...

Oh this sounds delish. I have been all atwitter about violets lately, for some odd reason, so now I have a lovely recipe to try for my obsession. I'll let you know how it goes. By the way, does the jelly taste like the violet flavored candies, Chowards?