Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Super Sexy Scuppernong & Pomegranate Tartlets

Photo by Helene Dujardin

The flavor of the scuppernong is intensely grape-like. The outer skin is bitter, but the interior is sweet and gelatinous, which lends itself to the thickness of the sauce (or coulis) for this tartlet. Pomegranate juice (available at most grocery stores) adds brilliant, deep-red color and a sweet, acidic edge. So, why not pair the unlikely duo?

The results are smashing! The crunchy, pop-in-your-mouth pomegranate seeds form the first layer of the filling that is topped with a lemony, cotton-white mousse. Prepared puff pastry shells for the tart casings, while the coulis swirls around the plate in unrestrained regal splendor. All can be prepared ahead and plated at the last second, which makes this the perfect tartlet treat for your Christmas and holiday table. If scuppernongs are not available where you are, substitute Concord grapes or another full-flavored grape.

Super Sexy Scuppernong & Pomegranate Tartlets
(Makes 12 individual servings)

Equipment Needed: Parchment paper, baking sheet

2 packages Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells (or 2 Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets cut into rounds with a 2″ round pastry cutter)
1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

For the coulis:
3 cups whole, fresh scuppernongs, rinsed
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sugar

For the mousse:
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon warm water
1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup honey, preferably local
1 cup cold whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the garnish:
Seeds from one pomegranate, flesh and pulp removed (see directions below).

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the thawed pastry shells on it, about one inch apart. Brush the tops (not sides!) of each lightly with the egg wash. Bake until golden and fluffy, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool when done.

Meanwhile, prepare the coulis. Combine the scuppernongs, pomegranate juice, water, cinnamon stick and sugar in a medium sauce pan. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the scuppernongs have popped and the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the mousse. Combine the gelatin and water in a small glass or cup. Stir to combine with a spoon, or use your fingers. Once fully dissolved, whisk the gelatin in a medium bowl with the yogurt, lemon zest and honey. In a separate cold bowl, using a hand mixer or a whisk, mount the whipping cream with the vanilla. Whip until fluffy and firm. To finish the mousse, whisk one third of the cream into the yogurt mixture. Fold the remaining cream, in two batches, into the yogurt mixture. Chill, covered in the refrigerator. (Note: This can be made several hours in advance).

To finish the coulis, remove and discard the cinnamon stick and smash the cooled mixture with a masher or a fork to release as much flesh as possible. Drain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a ladle to release the juices, into a small bowl. Discard the grape skin/seed solids. The remaining liquid is your wonderful coulis! Chill the coulis.

Now, separate the seeds from the pomegranate. To do this, cut the pomegranate into quarters. Peel the seeds away from the pulp (also called aril). Do this with patience, it takes a little time. Your goal is to separate the bitter pulp away from the seeds and then discard it.

To assemble the tartlets, gently peel the “tops” off the baked pastry shells, along with some of the inside pastry, to form a “home” for the tart filling. Place one tablespoon of the pomegranate seeds into the bottom of each. Top with two heaping tablespoons of the mousse. Serve on individual plates with a generous swirl of the coulis, and a drizzle of pomegranate seeds. Keep cold until serving (up to one hour) or better yet, serve immediately.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, Sweet and Southern, by Holly Herrick (Gibbes Smith, Fall, 2011). Photograph by Helene DuJardin, www.mytartelette.com

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