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Devoe Pear Custard Tart: Almost too pretty to eat

Gourmet Thanksgiving in Advance (described here) Recipe #7

I was worried this dessert was too pretty to eat until two of us ate the whole thing in one night. Luckily I got a photograph.

Devoe Pear Custard Tart

What I changed (reflected below) and why: Baked a pie crust I’d assembled and frozen previously; Substituted sweet vermouth for dry white wine because it’s what I had on hand; Didn’t strain juice from Bartlett pear shreds because that seemed cumbersome, and everything turned out fine; Substituted succanat for sugar for nutrition and molasses flavor; Devoe pears because I could find Seckel pears and Devoe were the next smallest; Omitted poire William because it seemed hard to find and would have been expensive.

1 pastry/pie crust of your choice, circular or rectangular, baked
1 cup sweet vermouth
2 ripe Bartlett pears
3/4 cup succanat
2 lb Devoe pears (about 10)
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)

1. Put wine in a wide 4-qt pot. Finely grate Bartlett pears (including skin) into wine. Transfer wine mixture to a 2-cup measure and add enough water, if necessary, to bring total to 2 cups liquid, then return to pan and stir in sugar/succanat.

2. Carefully peel Devoe pears, leaving stems intact, then core through bottom with tip of vegetable peeler or a small knife to remove seeds.

3. Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until succanat/sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups syrup), and reserve for custard and glaze.

4. Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean, reserving pod for another use. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 Tbsp pear syrup (leftover from Step 3) and butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

5. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tbsp water in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute. Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

6. Set out baked pastry/pie crust. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Stand pears upright on pastry cream, arranging decoratively. When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. (If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.) Cut and serve!

Recipe: Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese Balls

Gourmet Thanksgiving in Advance (described here) Recipe #3

Gorgeous, easy to make, and ridiculously delicious. Be sure to make these! Bet you can’t eat just six.

Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese Balls

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine‘s Pecan and Goat-Cheese Marbles

1 cup pecans (1/4 lb)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 (11-oz) log soft goat cheese
2 teaspoons minced rosemary (I used dried)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed with side of a large knife, then chopped
About 50 to 60 large flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in upper third. Toss pecans with butter, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then toast in a 4-sided sheet pan until fragrant and a shade darker, 8 to 10 minutes. (Watch them very closely. If some happen to get a little burnt/dark, don’t worry- I thought it added a “smokey” taste and we still gobbled them up.) Transfer to a plate and cool completely.

2. Chop pecans rather finely, then transfer to a wide shallow bowl.

3. Stir together goat cheese, rosemary, coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until combined well. Form teaspoons of cheese mixture into marbles between your palms, then roll in pecans to coat and roll between your palms again briefly. Transfer to a plate.

4. Put a parsley leaf over each cheese marble and spear together with a wooden pick.

Recipe: Wild Mushroom and Collard Green Bundles

Gourmet Thanksgiving in Advance (described here) Recipe #2

Perhaps the most delicious way to eat collard greens, particularly for those who dislike bitter-tasting collards and/or vegetarians who can’t do the collard greens & bacon thing.

When you get to step 3, be generous with the filling in each leaf. I had extra which I put in romaine leaves. As you can see in the photo, they’re not as pretty (though surprisingly still tasty, but not as good as the collards).

Wild Mushroom and Collard Green Bundles

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine‘s Wild-Mushroom Bundles

8 large collard leaves, stems and thick portion of center ribs removed
1/2 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms: shitake, oyster, and chanterelle, cut into wedges (6 cups)
1. Cook collards in a large pot of boiling water with 1 Tbsp salt until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes, then drain. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, then spread leaves, undersides up, on paper towels, overlapping cut edges slightly, and pat dry.
2. Bring wine to a boil with shallot, garlic, butter, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a heavy medium saucepan. Add mushrooms and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes. Butter a 2-qt shallow baking dish, then strain mushroom juices into baking dish, reserving mushrooms.
3. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third. Mound a 1/4 cup mushrooms in center of each collard leaf. Fold leaves to enclose filling and arrange bundles, seam sides down, in 1 layer in baking dish and cover the dish with foil. (Or, if making in advance, at this point refrigerate the baking dish for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before heating.)
4. Heat in oven until bundles are hot and juices are bubbling, about 20 minutes.

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