My friend Anne and I have, for years, co-hosted Christmas and Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving at my house, Christmas at hers. All are welcome, and everyone brings something, but the cast of characters changes each year. Every year Anne, a vegetarian, gamely bakes a Christmas ham; I usually luck out and go home with a week’s supply of ham or even a nice bone for soup – because what is she going to do with the leftovers?
This year, the guests were – all of them – passionate cooks – so everyone brought their assigned dish (salad, bread) and then whatever they thought would make a nice addition to the meal … plus a dessert.
There was one dessert per adult – and I don’t mean one slice of pie, I mean one full pie. It was a breathtaking display.
My diet started when the leftovers ran out, but it was so good that I have no regrets.
It has always struck me as rather unfair that the star of the meal – the ham – can’t be eaten by the hostess, and not only that, she’s so busy with everything that she can’t really make something special that she can eat. So I try to make it up to her by making some special side dish – one that could take center stage.
This year, I succeeded. I found this recipe for Chard, Raisin, and Pine Nut Tart when I was hunting for my lost caramels recipe, and when I read it, could not understand why I hadn’t made it before. The most difficult part – the crust – you can easily cheat by using a store bought; I used a frozen sheet puff-pastry and it was wonderful and flaky.
The filling is a superb, moist mix of savory chard and plump, sweet raisins, with the pine nuts adding a nice texture. It all plays nicely against the flaky crust.
The recipe originates in France, where it sometimes served as a dessert, dusted with powdered sugar. I don’t see it as being a great dessert, but it doesn’t need to be a side dish – with a side of spinach salad, it would make a fabulous alternative to quiche for a light lunch. In fact, it did make a nice lunch the day after Christmas.
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 cup water
- 1½ pounds chard, stems and center ribs discarded
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- Pastry dough for a double-crust pie
- Bring raisins and water to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour. Drain in a colander, then pat dry with paper towels.
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
- Blanch chard in a large pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Transfer chard with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain chard in a colander, then squeeze out excess water by handfuls. Coarsely chop chard.
- Whisk together egg, cream, granulated sugar, zest, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Stir in pine nuts, raisins, and chard until combined.
- Roll out larger piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin and fit into 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (do not trim edges). Chill shell while rolling out top.
- Roll out smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin. Spread chard filling evenly into shell, then top with second rectangle of dough. Using a rolling pin, roll over edges of pan to seal tart and trim edges, discarding scraps. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a paring knife, then put tart in pan on a baking sheet. Bake until top is golden, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes, then remove side of pan. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
This is my contribution to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Why not swing by and see what other savory surprises await?