leave your inhibitions at the door
Did I ever mention that winter sucks?
OK, I guess that’s not saying much because EVERYONE hates winter. Except white people. Or at least I assume that white people love winter because any time I leave the house I always seem to see some white person in shorts.
As I write this, the outside temperature is 44 and the weatherman is proud to deliver the good news that we are going to reach the mid-60s this weekend. I suppose I should also clarify that my definition of “winter” anything less than 70 degrees.
To keep my sanity, besides copious quantities of booze, I like to make recipes that remind me of warmer times and places.
One of my favorite places on earth is Tulum, Mexico, and my very favorite restaurant I’ve ever been to – anywhere in the world – is Hartwood. To recap – Tulum is about 90 minutes south of Cancun and was, until about 8 years ago, a total filthy hippie place. It became a haven for celebrities and people in the New York fashion industry wishing to go somewhere rustic to find their inner peace and shit. Soon followed chefs energized by the challenges of simple cooking conditions and vibrant ingredients. Eric Werner and his wife, Mya Henry, moved here from Brooklyn to open Hartwood.
The menu changes daily and is based on what’s available that day – from fishers, foragers, and other micro local suppliers. The restaurant’s little generator operates a blender and the music piped into their dining area. Since the cooking is done with a wood-burning grill and oven, there are no funky appliances or tools needed.
I was curious to see how all of that would translate into a cookbook. The techniques were probably going to be fine with how simple the preparations are. The ingredients might be another matter. Luckily, there are a couple Latino grocers here for pantry items and spices. But the growing conditions here in Michigan means most of the produce used isn’t going to be fresh. As for fish – it’s tough enough to get decent salmon in the midwest – but robalo?
So far the few recipes I have made have been magical. Werner is not trying to make Mexican food as there’s no way a recently transplanted Gringo could do it better than the locals. He’s just trying to make good food with local ingredients. This dessert epitomizes that philosophy by taking a classic lemon tart and adapting to local ingredients.
I’ve never cooked with chamomile before this (and a ceviche dish elsewhere in the cookbook) but I’m so hooked. That aroma adds so much to the food. And it’s definitely worth seeking out the sugar cone. It’s not overly sweet and adds some deep earthy notes. This recipe is for a 9-inch tart but I made mine on a baking sheet by doubling the recipe. To be safe, I prepared curd in two batches.
Lime Tart with Lime Caramel
– 12 Tablespoons unsalted softened butter
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
– 3 large eggs
– 4 large egg yolks
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 Tablespoon grated lime zest
– 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
– 1 cone piloncillo (about 8 ounces) chopped
– 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
– 1 lime, halved, sliced into thin wedges, and roasted until slightly charred (optional)
– Dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
– Zest of 1 lime for garnish
1 – Make the crust: Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and chamomile and mix until dough forms. Shape into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minute, or until firm.
2 – Preheat the oven to 400 F
3 – Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Use a fork to poke holes all over it so that the crust doesn’t bubble while baking. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.
4 – Make the curd: Fill a saucepan about halfway with water and heat it over medium-low heat until simmering. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl that you can set over the saucepan, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar. Set the bowl over the saucepan and continue whisking until the sugar is dissolve, about 1 minute. Add the lime zest, juice, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 4 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides frequently so that the curd does not overcook. Whisk in the butter piece by piece.
5 – Pour the curd into the crust.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let cool completely, then refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours. (The tart can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
6 – Make the caramel: Melt the piloncillo with the lime juice and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until completely fluid, stirring to break up any stubborn pieces. Stir in the butter and remove from the heat. Let cool.
7 – To serve, remove the sides of the pan, cut the tart into wedges, and arrange on serving plates. Top each serving with a drizzle of caramel, a few roasted lime wedges, if using, a sprinkle of chamomile, and a pinch of lime zest.