August 31, 2009

The Loss of a Legend

This week we lost a legend of the culinary community. "The Silver Palate Cookbook" author Shelia Lukins passed away leaving behind a legacy of cookbooks and recipes that helped shape American home cooking from the 1980's until today. In fact, her recipes were an integral part of my childhood. I have vivid memories of my mom pouring through her cookbook for everyday meals as well as for more formal entertaining. We even made a pilgrimage to the original Silver Palate gourmet foods store while on a trip to New York City in 1985. (Yes, that's me! Such a little diva...)

One of my favorite recipes from "The Silver Palate Cookbook" was the Strawberry Chocolate Tart. I remember my mom preparing it for company while giving me (then only 5 or 6 years old) hints and tips to make it just right. She carefully selected each and every strawberry telling me that they should all be the same size and shape so the tart would look pretty. She explained how the Red Currant Glaze made the strawberries shiny, and I watched in awe as the tart glistened with the perfection you would expect to see in a French pastry shop.

Sheila Lukins elevated the palate of the home cook in America. She and her recipes will be dearly missed but she leaves behind cookbooks with tried and true recipes that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Strawberry Chocolate Tart

9-inch pre-baked Sweet Buttery Tart Crust (recipe follows)
Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
1 ½ pints strawberries, washed, stemmed and dried
½ cup Red Currant Glaze (recipe follows)
sprig of fresh mint (garnish)

1. While chocolate filling is still warm, spread it in the tart shell. Filling should be about 1/8 inch thick.
2. Place berries, tips up, over the warm chocolate filling in a circular pattern, working form the outside in until the surface is covered.
3. Warm the glaze until thin enough to brush easily, then coat berries evenly.
4. Refrigerate tart for 2 hours; remove from refrigerator 45 minutes before serving. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Serves 8.

Chocolate Filling

1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons sweet butter, melted
3 tablespoons Kirsch
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon water

1. Melt chocolate in a bowl placed over simmering water. This will take about 20 minutes. When chocolate has reached 110 degrees F., add melted butter and Kirsch. Whisk quickly and thoroughly until smooth.
2. Add confectioners’ sugar and water, continuing to whisk until smooth.
3. While the mixture is still warm, pour it into the tart shell.

Red Currant Glaze

3 tablespoons red currant jelly
1 tablespoon Kirsch

Whisk jelly and Kirsch together over medium heat until smooth. Use glaze while warm.

Sweet Buttery Tart Crust

1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup very fine granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) sweet butter, chilled
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cold water

1. Sift flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut chilled butter into pieces into the bowl. Using your fingertips, rapidly rub the butter and dry ingredients together until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Be careful to use only your fingertips as your palms will warm the dough.
2. Stir egg yolks, vanilla and water together and add to the flour-butter mixture and blend in, using a fork. Shape dough into a ball. The should not take more than 30-45 seconds.
3. Place the ball of dough on a pastry board. With the heel of your hand, smear about ¼ cup of dough away from you into a 6 to 8 inch smear; repeat until all dough as been dealt with. Scrape dough together; re-form into a ball, wrap in wax paper, and chill for 2 to 3 hours.
4. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper, or use a floured pastry cloth and floured stockinette on your rolling pin, into a round large enough to line your pan. Work quickly, as the dough can become sticky.
5. Line either a 8 or 9 inch false-bottom tart pan with the dough, fitting it loosely into pan and pressing to fit sides. Trim edges ¾ inch outside top of pan, and fold this edge over to inside, and press into place with fingers. Chill.
6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
7. Line dough in the tart pan with a piece of aluminum foil or wax paper and weight with rice or beans. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places. For a partially baked shell, return to oven or 3 to 4 minutes longer. For a fully baked shell, return for 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until edges are a light brown.

Obituary from the New York Times:

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Anonymous said...

I love that recipe! It's one of my all-time favorites, too. My copy of the cookbook is all worn out, but very used and loved. She will be missed.

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