Dear Chef Bourdain;
Tomorrow is the superbowl. I’m having people over, and for the third year in a row, I’m making “the Bacon Explosion“. (The first one was the plain vanilla Bacon Explosion – the second one was the Bacon Explosion Wellington With Cheese, and this year, the Bacon Explosion Lite.)
I wanted to make something from the Les Halles Cookbook, but to be honest, nothing really suits the occasion. So it’s good ol’ American junk food for us – ribs, atomic buffalo turds, chili dogs, nachos, and of course – The Bacon Explosion Lite.
I hope you’re having all fancy and sophisticated and stuff!
Dear Chef Bourdain;
This was my first recipe that I’d call a dismal failure. I blame my own lack of experience with baking in general, but also your frustrating lack of instructions in “The Les Halles Cookbook”. I just scrapped it and started all over again, and ended up with a perfectly edible and delightful lemon tart that served as a pretty nice counterpoint to the horrors of Guts Night.
I’ve made your tart shell before, and it turned out fine but puffy. Maddeningly, and as I’ve discussed previously, your recipe for the shell tells me how to make it, but not what to do with it after. There’s this whole “pre-baking” step that you completely omit. Bastard.
Because I’d mentioned it before, my future sister-in-law read about it here, and thoughtfully gave me a really gorgeous tart pan and pie-weights to use. See, once you’ve got your pastry crust, you have to firm it up in the oven by pre-baking. If you don’t it’s just a big soggy mess, which is especially bad for a tart. I was pretty excited to give the new equipment a whirl, so I diligently got two tart crusts ready, as per your recipe. It actually went better this time, I managed to roll out the crust without it fragmenting much, and smoothly deposit it in the pan. Then I pour in the pie-weights, and get ready to pre-bake.
You’re looking at this picture right now, Chef, and saying, “What an idiot!” What seems obvious to any accomplished chef is opaque to a relative tyro like myself. But yeah, there’s no parchment paper under those little ceramic beads. Turns out, that’s a really important element. I guess if I were making a tart crust that was studded with M&Ms this would be brilliant. (Wait a minute. Wait JUST a minute! That might be brilliant! Oh shit, I have to try that!) But this? This was not brilliant. No, it was in fact a kitchen disaster. An ugly kitchen disaster, kind of like the PETA Celebrity Cookbook. (That actually exist, man. I find the damnedest things when I’m googling around for a punchline.)
Look that, Chef! Look at it! Yeah, I baked those ceramic weights right into the crusts. Why? Because I was winging it without clear instructions. Ok, yeah, if I can google up the Peta Celebrity Cookbook, I can probably google up pre-baking a tart shell. But that’s haaaaaaard, chef! Using your book is easier!
Immediately after pulling them out of the oven, I became sensible to my error. At first I thought, “Crap, I’m going to have to scrape these weights off the top of the shell!” But I realized soon even that was impossible; the little balls had – doing their job – weighted right down to the bottom. It was impossibly studded with balls, like a Pride Parade, and there was no saving it. I at least got to taste the shell while I attempted to salvage the balls. (There’s a joke there, but I think more than one ball joke in a paragraph is worse than crass, it’s just lazy.)
After about ten minutes of shell-eating and trying not to bite down on ceramic weights, I realized fishing them out of the mess was going to be fucking impossible. I wrote ‘em off as a loss, and figured they were cheap enough I could just replace them. My lovely fiancee is, arguably, even more stubborn than me, and insisted she’d try and save them anyway. (Historical note: two days later, she gave up, too.)
Defeated, I went out and bought a couple of graham-cracker pie crusts, which while terribly declasse, worked just fine. I got my meez together, which for this one is dead simple – eggs, lemon juice, cream, sugar.
Pay no attention to the can of coke, it has no relevance to this recipe. I whipped it all together, and poured it into the pie crusts. And I put them in for the recommended time at the recommended temperature.
Now maybe it was because these were pie shells and not tart shells, but they were nowhere near done. I think your temperature and times are consistently lower and shorter than is actually true in my kitchen, so I’m going to try and take that into account.
After all was said and done, the tarts (though I think at this point they’re really pies, right?) didn’t quite firm up to something I could slice and serve – but the jumble that we did actually get onto the plates was really nice. Creamy, just a little bit sweet and nicely tangy – it was a great palate-cleanser and light dessert. And dead simple too – I will definitely keep this one in my back pocket. Just not the tart shells, maybe. Or rather, I’ll follow someone else’s procedure for tart shells, and the pre-baking and whatnot. But these “lemon tarts” were delicious and easy to make.
Maybe next time, less disaster, more pie;