Christmas & A Swiss Chard Pear Tart

DSC_0082Doesn’t Christmas happen really fast? I feel like I’m slowly getting ready for it all through November, and then after Thanksgiving I keep telling myself that I have a bunch of time before Christmas, but that’s never true. I ended up–like always–scrambling in the last couple of weeks to get gifts for everyone, and most of my homemade gift ideas went totally down the tubes. The things that I did manage to make are done hastily and I certainly did not to take pictures of it while I did it. You’ll have to believe me that I made a lovely marmalade, Irish cream, and vanilla. Just take my word for it, will you? I did have a chance to make brunch on Christmas day, and the tart that I made was so good, I remade a few mini-tarts today with the sole purpose of taking pictures…and then eating them for dinner. But, before we talk tart crust and custard, here’s a peek at my Christmas.
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We went out oystering and made friends with a pelican.
DSC_0125Palaki the dog is terrified of me, but only if he’s inside. When we’re outside, he can deal.
DSC_0181My Dad and Uncle Dickie
DSC_0186After about an hour, we had a bushel and a peck of oysters.
DSC_0200These are their excited faces–just before opening presents!
DSC_0202I think my dad has a future in glove modeling, don’t you?
DSC_0205More gift modeling
DSC_0198Coffee and beer at breakfast.
DSC_0092My Mom and I make sugar cookies every year, and it’s always a little messy.
DSC_0104We made stars and trees.
DSC_0231Speaking of my Mom, here she is with Mona.
DSC_0245We had Prosecco cocktails on Christmas morning…

DSC_0217...And Emily wore everything she opened.
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Santa brought lots of books and an ice cream maker!
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Mona got a bone and a blanket. She also helped everyone else open their gifts.
DSC_0077Okay, okay, back to this tart. I made it on Christmas morning, so I promise it’s deceptively easy. It’s just a simple butter crust, and you don’t have to roll it out, it’s just a press-in situation. You can even make the crusts ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them.

Here’s the recipe for the crust: (makes 4 mini tarts, 1 nine-inch round tart, or 1 14 inch rectangular tart)

1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
pinch of salt
4-5 Tablespoons of ice cold water

Whisk the flour and salt together, then cut the butter into the flour mixture using either a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. It should look like course meal when you’re done; none of the pieces should be larger than a pea.

Pour the water into the mixture and using a fork, gently incorporate the liquid. When you can pick up a handful of dough and it holds together when squeezed, it’s done. If it doesn’t hold together, add more water. Do not overmix.

Dump the course dough into the pan and gently press it into the bottom and against the sides. Smooth the edges with your finger.

If you’re planning to keep the tarts for a while, place them in the refrigerator or freezer, well wrapped, at this point. If you’re going to make them now, You should still chill them for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

For the filling: (recipe adapted from http://www.cannellevanille.com)

1 medium leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped Swiss chard, (remove tough ribs but use the tender ones)
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 ounce  Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 medium Bartlett or Bosc pear, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a pan over medium-high heat, sautee the garlic and leeks in olive oil until fragrant. Then add the swiss chard, wine, a pinch of salt and pepper, cover and let the greens wilt. It should take about 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the milk, eggs, coconut milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, half of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.

Take the tart shells out of the refrigerator, poke holes in the bottom, and bake just the shell for about 10 minutes. Press any bubbles down when you take them out of the oven.

In the par-baked shells, make a layer on the bottom with the sauteed greens, then arrange the sliced pears on top of the greens, then pour the milk mixture over everything, stopping when the shells are nearly full. Top with the remaining Gruyère.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool, pop off the tart pan’s sides, and enjoy warm!
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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

In my family, there is always canned cranberry sauce, sliced into rounds and still shaped like the can. I love that stuff. It’s exactly the best thing that happens at Thanksgiving and no other time of the year. That said, my family also always has real cranberry sauce with whole cranberries in it. And I love that stuff, too. What can I say? I’m a flip-flopper. I’m wishy-washy. I totally ride the fence on this issue. There should be both kinds of cranberry sauce on any Thanksgiving table. Always both.

So, the canned kind is pretty easy… it’s just a slicing issue. (It’s funny that I say that because last year at Thanksgiving, that was my only job and when we sat down, there was no canned cranberry sauce on the table because I forgot about it. In my defense, I was really busy stirring pots and holding babies and sneaking tastes of things.) Anyway, the canned stuff is sort of a day-of thing, but the real stuff can be made way ahead of time! I say do it now. The grocery store is definitely not out of cranberries yet, and the smell of the sauce cooking will get you all excited about Thanksgiving.

This year, Jason and I are having a little pre-Thanksgiving at our house for our friends, which I’m really excited about. I never get to host Thanksgiving (aka cook), so I’m making it happen this year. The whole shebang, just on a smaller scale. Then, I’m going to my best friend’s house for the real deal. This means that I get to have two totally separate Thanksgivings, which is the best possible situation.

If you make your real cranberry sauce early, you can give your friends a jar and save them the trouble, too. All things considered, cranberry sauce is a really easy thing to throw together. It’s just cranberries, orange zest and a little juice, cranberry juice, and maple syrup. It takes about a half hour to throw together.

Here’s the recipe: (yields 2 pints)

2 bags frozen (or fresh) cranberries (20 ounces)

2 cups 100% cranberry juice

2 cups pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)

6 tablespoons fresh orange juice

zest from one orange

Put everything in a large, heavy bottom pot and bring it to a rolling boil. Let it boil while stirring, for about 4 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to medium and stir for 10-20 minutes or until the sauce thickens considerably. (It will still be a little loose while it’s hot, but it’ll gel more when it cools.) When it’s done, pour the sauce into 2 pint jars or 4 half-pint jars. Process it in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.

Serve with turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed sweet potatoes, and yeasty rolls. DUH.