Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Kiss

pomegranate

The Perfect Holiday Tart – Beautiful, Delicious and Easy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! I’m posting this recipe from Tart Love – Sassy Savory and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October, 2011) today because there is still plenty of time to make it and it is utterly delicious and beautiful and just dripping with the colors and flavors of the season. It’s one of my favorites from the book and I hope you’ll consider it a gift from my kitchen for your holiday table.

Super-Sexy Scuppernong and Pomegranate Tartlets

(Makes 12 individual servings)

Petite, ruby-red pomegranate seeds and clunky-looking scuppernongs may seem like strange tart-fellows. Though the former is a berry and the latter is a variety of the muscadine grape, they have much in common. Both are harvested during cool weather, both are tart-sweet, and both have a very long history. The scuppernong is the state fruit of North Carolina, where it has been harvested (as well as throughout the Southeast) for centuries. It is named after a river that runs through that lush state. The pomegranate dates back to ancient times in the Middle East, where it was grown in Asia and India, though now it is grown throughout the world.

The crunchy, pop-in-your mouth pomegranate seeds form the first layer of the filling, which is topped with a lemony, cotton-white mousse. Prepared puff pastry shells form the tart casings, while the coulis swirls around the plate in unrestrained regal splendor. All can be prepped ahead and plated at the last second, making these perfect for any occasion where elegance is on the menu. If scuppernongs are not available where you are, substitute Concord grapes or another full-flavored grape.

Super Sexy Scuppernong and Pomegranate Tartlets. Beautiful photo by Helene Dujardin.

 

Equipment Needed: Parchment paper, baking sheet

2 packages Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells (or 2 Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets cut into rounds with 2-inch round pastry cutters)

1 egg-wash (yolk, splash water, pinch salt blended together)

Coulis

3 cups whole fresh scuppernongs, rinsed

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons sugar

Mousse

1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin

1 tablespoon warm water

1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt

Zest from one lemon

1/2 cup local honey

1 cup cold whipping cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Seeds from one pomegranate, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the pastry shells on it, about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops (not sides!) of each lightly with egg wash. Bake about 25 minutes, until fluffy and golden. Set aside to cool when done.

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

To prepare the mousse, combine the gelatin and water in a small glass or cup. Stir to dissolve. Once fully dissolved, whisk the gelatin in a medium bowl with the yogurt, 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 from the scuppernongs.  Drain the mixture through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing with the back of a ladle to release the juices. Driscard the grape skin/seed solids. The remaining liquid is your wonderful coulis! Chill.

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

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 pomegranate seeds in the bottom of each. Top with 2 heaping tablespoons of mousse. Serve on individual plates with a generous swirl of the coulis and a sprinkling of the pomegranate seeds. Keep cold for up to 1 hour until serving. Better yet, serve immediately.

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