Sunday, August 21, 2011
Bookending Summer: Eggs and Blueberries
When I first arrived in Little Compton this year, I was treated to a tour of the hen-house of the ex-husband of one of my best friends from college. He had dropped some eggs off to her house while I was there, and I said I’d love some too. So on my way out from her house to my little cottage in LC, I stopped by and met the girls. They were of assorted colors, ages, and sizes—a real harem to the large and pompous rooster who strutted about like he owned the place, such as it was.
Henhouses are not the most lovely places, but the eggs one finds still-warm in the nests sure are. A skilled water-colorist could scarcely match that palette of soft greys, greens, and blues, and no coffee with cream or perfect suntan can rival the warm brown hue of a RI Red brown egg. They are such a delight to behold, sitting on the counter, lined up in their cartons, ready to be as simple or as exotic as you choose. The perfect food, but also the perfect companion for any mood, space of available time (eggs are the ultimate, satisfying quick supper), or season. Wouldn’t we all like more of those? Or even one, let alone a dozen?
Eggs are always in inventory, and so when it was time to leave LC—yes, I am back in Tucson, and the semester starts Tuesday—there was no question of throwing them out. It was still blueberry season, and so I wanted to do something that would showcase both the eggs and the berries—the bookends of my summer. This custard tart, a more contemporary version of the pie my grandmother made frequently because it could be so quickly whipped up with what was on hand, is delicious plain, of course. But it takes nicely to ornament, as pairing it with a little quickly cooked blueberry sauce proves on first bite.
Custard Tart with Blueberry Sauce
Use an all-butter crust for this, and please use whole milk. Serves 6-8.
For the tart:
Pâte Sucrée for a 9” tart, here.
3 fresh large eggs
Scant ¾ c sugar
Big pinch salt
2 ½ c whole milk, scalded
1 tea vanilla
A little freshly grated nutmeg (optional if using sauce)
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt with a whisk. Scald the milk and remove from the heat; add the vanilla and the nutmeg if using. Set aside.
Roll out the pastry and fit it into a tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming the edge. Brush the bottom with lightly beaten egg white. Give the custard mixture a stir and pour it into the tart pan; I prefer to open the oven door, pull out the rack and put the pan with the pastry on the rack, and pour the custard in right there. You may have a little extra; pour it into a custard cub and bake it alongside the tart as a treat for the cook. Bake for about 30 min, until lightly golden on top and a sharp knife inserted half-way to the center comes out clean.
For the blueberry sauce:
1 pt blueberries, washed and picked over
¼-1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, to taste
2-3” piece cinnamon stick
Put the first four ingredients in a medium-size aluminum or stainless steel pan; squeeze the juice from the quarter lemon into the berries, then toss the lemon into the pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce, stirring, for 5 or 10 min, til it is thickened but still fluid and the fruit remains largely whole. Cool. You can also serve it over ice cream, of course.