I was on a plane headed home to Boston one Thanksgiving, when I overheard a woman talking to her seat mates about cooking. She claimed that she had never made the same thing twice. Not just for Thanksgiving. Never ever. For any meal.
Incredulous, I took this to mean that she didn’t usually cook with a recipe, and therefore every time she made the family favorites, they were ever so slightly different. Not so. She was talking year long, day in and day out. Wow.
For most of that flight (from Seattle, mind you), my head was spinning. Was this claim for real? Where did leftovers fit into the equation? What if her family absolutely loved a recipe and they begged her to make it again? Nope. No dice. This I know because, lucky for Curious George here, a fellow passenger asked the question.
When it comes to holidays, and Thanksgiving in particular, I’m all about tradition. The smells and tastes are so nostalgic. Even things that aren’t really my style – green bean casserole, anyone? – have a place on my Thanksgiving table because they remind me of the loved ones in my life who insisted on having them.
I think about this passenger fairly frequently at this time of year, wondering what new and exciting dishes she has found to serve her family. Sometimes I feel emboldened to try something non-traditional, like this recipe. Sure, pumpkin pie is everyone’s favorite and yes, that will be on my menu, but maybe it’s the new things, new foods, new people at the table that will make this year a special memory?
If you’re in the mood to break with tradition, or like me, just feel like branching out, then perhaps it’s time to move the cranberry from condiment to confection. This brown butter cranberry tart is a feast for all the senses – delicious, visually stunning, and an audible treat with the pops of cranberries followed by the ooohs and ahhhs as it’s served.
Brown Butter Cranberry Tart
For the Tart Shell
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cubed
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg yolk
For the filling
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste OR 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest grated
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- ¼ cup water
To make the tart shell
- In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt and whisk to combine. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two forks until the chunks of butter are the size of peas.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and egg yolk. Pour over the tart dough and stir with a spoon until well incorporated.
- Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter then dump the tart dough onto it. Working quickly, pat the dough into a round disk, without kneading. You want to keep the chunks of butter intact. Wrap tightly and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
- After the tart dough has chilled, place dough on a floured surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Place the dough in a tart pan with a removable bottom, trim and flute the edges. Place back into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 22-25 minutes, just until it is starting to turn golden brown. Remove tart from oven and remove foil and weights. Return to oven for another 7-10 minutes. After 7-10 minutes it should be lightly golden brown and have no soft doughy spots. Move to a cooling rack while making the filling.
To make the filling
- Brown the butter by melting in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter starts to smell nutty and begins to form golden brown specks at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat immediately to keep from burning. Set aside and let cool for several minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with both sugars, orange zest and vanilla. Pour the browned butter over the egg mixture and whisk until incorporated. Slowly add in flour and salt, whisking to combine. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set and golden. Remove from oven and transfer to rack to cool for 2-3 hours.
To make the cranberries
- In a medium pot, combine 1 cup sugar with cranberries and water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until the cranberries are starting to split open and the sugar is dissolved, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer cranberries to a bowl and refrigerate, 1 hour.When ready to serve, top the tart with cranberries using a slotted spoon. Add a bit of orange zest to the top if desired. Cut and enjoy!
Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels this holiday! Keep your ears open for my foodie friend, especially if your plans include Logan (that’s Beantown, not Billings).