Living in SF on and off for 15 years, there's a certain built-in sense of place you get after a while. You know automatically which way to turn to get the train outbound or inbound, which way is the ocean and which way is Oakland. You fall asleep on BART coming from Rockridge, look out the window and know immediately, with a sinking heart, that you've missed 24th St and are headed somewhere past Daly City. The train pulls up in Colma and you realize you've gone 4 stops past where you wanted to be, and that you're going to have to sit on the cold concrete bench and wait for the next Bay Point-bound train to take you back to where you meant to go in the first place. Then again, at least you woke up in Colma, which is more than most people do.*
Back to 24th St, 14 Mission bus to Cortland, 24 Divis up the hill, finally home again, home again, jiggity jig. And unlike your umbrella last week, you didn't leave your french tart pan on the train, a good thing.
As usual, I was coming home after a transbay baked-goods run, not wanting to face rush hour and then late-night driving in the Green Bean, aka the PQ's nifty '95 beetle-green Taurus. The destination? Leslie's family-and-friends b-day party, a soupfest of fun, with cheese, bread and two fab soups, lentil and chicken and rice. Yes, Chicken Soup with Rice, just like the Maurice Sendak poem.
Leslie asked for a sweet, and since I still had the last few lemons from D's Oakland tree in the fridge, I made a lemon tart. What a hit! I used the recipe from the Bouchon cookbook as posted on Epicurious, and at first I was wary, since it was more of a creamy/fluffy filling rather than the typical jelly-ish french-bakery style. But it was tart and super-lemony and just lovely. Partly because I made one tart for what turned out to be 15 or so people (plus kids), everyone only got a little sliver, which was maybe why they all raved and wished for more. But regardless, I think that Mr. Keller might be onto something. Here's my version:
Birthday Lemon Tart
I made this with Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and more fragrant than your usual Eureka/Lisbon lemons. You can increase the sugar a little if you can't get Meyers.
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
7 tbsp butter, very cold, chopped into chunks
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cold water
Mix flour, salt, and sugar, then cut in butter until it forms little nickel-sized bits. Whisk egg yolk, vanilla, and water together; add and toss together until dough comes together when squeezed. Don't worry if it seems crumbly; it will get moister as it rests. Put in a zip-lock bag, seal, and chill for at least 1-2 hours. Roll out into a round on a lightly floured surface (if it's too sticky to roll, just press into pan as evenly as you can). Tuck into a 9-inch fluted metal tart pan with removable bottom. Bake for 20 min at 350F, rotating as necessary for even browning, until golden brown. Let cool.
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon (use a microplane!)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp butter
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, beat yolks, eggs, and sugar together. Whisk until mixture is foamy and beginning to thicken. Add 1/3 of lemon juice and keep whisking. After a minute or two, add another 1/3 of juice. Repeat. Keep whisking until mixture gets thick and opaque, and mounts up a little as you whisk (whisk should leave trails). It should take about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat. Beat in butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Remove top of double boiler from water, and let cool. It will thicken and get fluffy as it cools.
Spoon filling into crust. If desired, brown lightly under the broiler (watch carefully, as it will only take a minute or two). Serve chilled or at room temp.
Leslie's dad wanted me to be his Big Love second wife after tasting this; her mom fully agreed and said I could come for dinner at their house anytime, as long as I brought them a tart.
* Colma is the Bay Area's necropolis, with more graveyards than neighborhoods. Sure, some people do live here, but the vast majority? Very quiet.