Radical meets practical! A Sweet Nerd’s dream! This is what happens when sweet-and-sour maple vinegar folds into easy-to-make berry lemon tarts.
This one started a few years back when I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Zak Pelaccio of Fish and Game. He just reeked of cool kitchen confidence, with his laid back non-urban lifestyle. I’m telling you, this dude is a genius. I totally geeked out. He was super funny, sweet, and an all-around gracious host to us when we visited his restaurant in Hudson, NY (about a two hour drive north of Manhattan). He has that ‘it’ quality and makes you feel at ease in his culinary world. His cookbook, Eat With Your Hands is easy to follow, irreverent, and just a great read (even if you don’t ever try a recipe).
I remember reading that he hates following recipes. (Wow, such a rebel!) His credo is all about cooking being an experience – you just roll with it, create and make. He is not really known as a dessert guy, but when he does post a dessert recipe, I am all over it! So when he shared a recipe in Food and Wine for Russian Cream with Strawberries, I took it in and made it my own.
In this recipe, I am using Zach’s tangy maple-vinegar drizzle and incorporating it with a simple-to-make Meyer Lemon Curd Mini Tart recipe.
The beautiful part about these mini berry lemon tarts is that you can keep it classic by just adding simple berries, or you can gussy up these little gems with a sweet-and-sour sauce. I’m not gonna lie – it is a sticky mess, but so worth it. This tangy reduction sauce is the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the berries. It will make your taste buds scream for more.
First, start with the sauce. When it coats the back of the spoon, remove it from the burner. Don’t over reduce or it will turn hard like candy. As the sauce cools, you’ll notice it start to thicken (which is a good thing!).
I’ve noticed that the sauce clings to blackberries and blueberries best, and on my first go-round, it sort of slid off the raspberries. Well, I wasn’t having that so I went back in and tried to coat the raspberries for a second time and found that on the second try they cooperated and coated nicely.
The meyer lemon curd is simple. You can make it on a bain marie, which is a hot water bath (or double boiler set-up). Fair warning, it looks ugly when you start and even scarier in the middle of the process. Sort of a curdle lookin’ thing! But, don’t despair – just keep whisking and it will all come together. Don’t increase the heat, just be patient, and it will emulsify. When it’s time to cool the curd, pop it in the fridge and place plastic wrap on top, touching its skin.
I used these pre-made mini tart cups from Surfas Culinary District. They are perfect. (And if you think it’s cheating, then okay, fine, but they sure do save time when you’re a mom-who-needs-to-be-in-five-places-at-one-time.) Truth be told, I prefer the store-bought kind anyway. I like to put my energy into creating the creamy sweet goodness that goes inside the tart! Another tip: you can simplify this recipe by using plain berries. Just pop the berry on top as a decoration and you’re done! But, if you do have an extra 20 minutes, then go the extra baker mile and make this gastrique.
Place the sweet-and-sour berries on top of the curd right before you’re ready to serve and enjoy!
Photos by: Maria Hedrick Photography