Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Recipes, articles and thoughts on tarts and possibly Tart Love

Tasso Tussled Sweet Potato and Arugula Tartlets

These savory beauties would be perfect on any Easter or spring holiday table…Adapted from Tart Love – Savory, Sweet and Southern (Holly Herrick/Gibbs Smith). The lovely photo is by Helene Dujardin. Happy Easter and enjoy the beautiful weather and flavors of spring!

Sweet potatoes and arugula (also called “rocket”) grow best in the cooler seasons of fall and spring. Though sweet potatoes are often served loaded with sugar and fat at calorie-drunk Thanksgiving tables, they have a rich, nutty, savory flavor in their virgin state. Arugula provides a deep green color lining at the bottom of the tartlets that gives peppery taste surprise to every bite. Crumbled, candied pecans scattered over the top add just the right sweetness to counter the Cajun kick of tasso ham, which is prepared from cured and smoked pork butt. If you can’t find it, substitute pancetta or bacon, and feel free to spice either up with a little cayenne and fresh garlic as it cooks.

Makes 10 to 12 Tartlets

Equipment needed: Ten to twelve 3 5/8″ X 1″ tartlet pans with removable bottoms, 6″ round pastry cutter

For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups White Lily All Purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

2 sticks (or 1 cup) best quality, AA Grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ cubes

ice cold water – about 3 tablespoons or enough to just hold the pastry together

One egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, dash water, blended together

For the filling prep:

2 large sweet potatoes, skin on and pierced with a fork or knife

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup 1/4″ cubed tasso ham

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh arugula, stems removed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the candied nuts:

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup fresh pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

To finish  the potato filling:

1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons honey, preferably good local honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup Half & Half

1 egg

Prepare the pastry first. Pulse the flour and the salt together in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a pastry blade. Add the butter and pulse until the butter breaks down into small pieces, about the size of peas (40 – 50 pulses). Gradually, add the water through the mouth of the food processor, while pulsing. Add just enough so that the pastry comes together in one large, loose ball. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface and form it into a 2″ thick disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or overnight.  Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4″ thickness. Working tightly to avoid waste, cut rounds with the pastry cutter. Line the tartlet pans with the pastry, pressing the pastry delicately into the edges and forming a small 1/4″ high border. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line each tartlet with parchment paper and fill with about 1/4 cup of weights – dried beans, pie weights, and rice will all work. Arrange the tartlets on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes or until the pastry has begun to set. Remove the weights and their liners and brush the sides and bottom of the tartlets with the egg wash. Continue baking another 20 minutes or until golden brown and fully baked. Meanwhile, prepare the fillings.

While the pastry is baking, place the two sweet potatoes in the hot oven to bake, skin-on. Bake until softened, 40 – 50 minutes. Remove to cool at room temperature. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. When sizzling, add the tasso and brown, tossing from time to time, browning on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the arugula all at once, tossing or stirring to coat. It will wilt and break-down almost immediately. Cook only 1 – 2  minutes so that it retains its brilliant green color. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool, draining off any excess liquid.

Prepare the candied nuts. Heat the butter in a medium saute pan. When sizzling, add the pecans, salt and pepper, chipotle chili pepper, and sugar. Toss to coat, stirring occasionally. Cook until just browned. Watch carefully so the nuts do not burn! Count on about 5 minutes for the nuts to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, and place the cooked flesh in a large bowl with salt and pepper to tate, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup Half & Half, and one egg. Beat with a hand-held mixer on medium high until frothy and light, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

To compile the tartlets, line each with about 1 tablespoon of the cooled arugula mixture. Top with 3 tablespoons of the potato mixture. Arrange the tartlets on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for  35 -40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Finely chop the cooled nuts and drizzle the top of each tartlet with about 1 tablespoon of the nuts. Serve warm, drizzling lightly with a bit more honey, if desired.


Sage Green Apple and Aged Cheddar Tart


Photo by Helene Dujardin

An excerpt from “Tart Love”

Apples sit firmly atop my favorite fall/winter food heap. Winesap, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and oodles of other heirloom varieties tempt me with their tart, sweet and crisp goodness. Eaten raw, out of the palm or nestled into a tart, apples offer infinite variety and goodness.

In this tart, the play is on the perennial pairing of apples and cheese. The edgy tartness of Granny Smith apples is idyllic with a best-quality aged, extra sharp cheddar cheese. Sage seals the deal with its effortlessly earthy touch.

Compile it just before your cocktail guests arrive and bake while they wait. The house is filled with wonderful aromas and the tart bakes in just 20 – 25 minutes. Serve it warm while the cheese is still gooey and gently oozing from the edges of the tart wedges. This tart makes a perfect appetizer or pair it with a salad for a complete meal.

(Makes 9 appetizer portions or 4 entree portions)

Equipment Needed: parchment paper

1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

2 medium Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and sliced very thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted, sweet butter

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

3 cups grated extra sharp, best-quality yellow cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange the thawed pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the pastry in the refrigerator while prepping the filling. Prepare the egg wash and briefly set aside.

Cut the apples, skin-on, very thinly. They should be so thin that you can practically see through them. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced apples, pepper, salt and sage. Toss the seasoned apples to coat, and cook for five minutes, or until the apples have just begun to soften and lightly brown. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and refrigerate until they are cool (about 15 – 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, grate the cheese with a box grater for a medium-sized grate. When the apples are cool, toss half of the cheese with the apples. Arrange this mixture in the center of the puff pastry sheet, spreading gently and evenly to the edges, leaving an 1/2″ border of naked pastry. Top the apples evenly with the remaining cheese, taking care not to drizzle over the clean pastry border. Brush the naked pastry border lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the pastry is fully puffed, a rich golden brown, and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve immediately while still warm.

For appetizer portions, cut through the tart in three even bars, both vertically and horizontally. For entree portions, cut the tart into four even squares. Garnish with a final pass of ground black pepper and a light drizzle of dried sage leaves if desired.


Tart Love Cover Is Born

So excited to finally have a look for my next book, all about wonderful tarts, both sweet and savory.

This is the finalized cover which features the Pear and Chocolate Tartlets from the book, to be released September 1, 2011 (Gibbs Smith). Bravo to Helene DuJardin for her smashing styling and photography and to the talented design team at Gibbs Smith.

Look for upcoming posts featuring recipes from the book to whet your appetite for a fall full of tart love.

Fondly, Holly


Recipe Reparation

Please note, the salt measurement for the Drunken Bourbon Pumpkin tart should be 1 teaspoon salt in the filling, not 1 tablespoon. It is modified in the blog listing, but in case you’ve already printed it out, I wanted you to know. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Drunken Pumpkin-Bourbon Tart

Photo by Helene Dujardin

People tend to have strong opinions about pumpkin pie. They either love it or they hate it. In the South, where I live, most of my friends prefer pecan or sweet potato pies for their holiday feasts, yet nobody ever turns down my pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. In fact, I’m making two of these babies this Thursday to share with said friends.

This tart is similar to a traditional pumpkin pie, but, it’s sleeker and sexier. It’s not as deep and not as filling as pie, but it’s plum full of fresh, roasted pumpkin flavor. Please don’t substitute canned pumpkin unless nothing else is available. It literally pales in comparison in every way and it’s so easy to roast pumpkin. Look for the petite pie pumpkins that are on grocer’s shelves as we speak. They can be roasted off and pureed days in advance (see directions below).

In this recipe, the custard gets pumped up with bourbon and plenty of spice so that it takes on a beautiful, burnt caramel color and layers of festive flavor. It is best served cold or at room temperature served with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream. Maybe it will become part of your holiday table’s annual offerings. Happy Thanksgiving!

Drunken Pumpkin-Bourbon Tart
(Serves 8 to 10)

Equipment Needed: One round 9″ X 1″ round tart pan with removable bottom

For the pastry:
2 1/4 cups White Lily All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sugar
generous pinch sea salt or kosher salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
approximately 1/4 cup ice cold water, or enough to just hold together the pastry

1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

For the filling:

2 cups of roasted pumpkin flesh
3 large eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon best-quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter all at once. Pulse 40 – 50 times or until the flour is the size of tiny peas. Gradually, drizzle the ice water through the mouth of the food processor, while pulsing. Stop just when the pastry begins to hold together. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disk using your hands. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Note: This can be done several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until baking day, which, for me, will be Thanksgiving).

Meanwhile, cut the pumpkin in half horizontally, and remove the pulp and the seeds using a stainless steel spoon. Discard the pulp and the seeds. Turn the pumpkin halves cut-sides down on a roasting sheet and cook in the pre-heated oven until the flesh is soft to the touch and beginning to implode, about 45 minutes. When the pumpkin is done, remove from the oven and cool at room temperature.

Once the pastry has rested/chilled at least 30 minutes, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, to about 1/4″ thickness. Line the tart pan with the pastry, leaving enough pastry to create a slightly elevated pastry border, about 1/2″ higher than the edge of the tart pan. Line the pastry with crumpled parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans, gently pressing the beans into the bottom and edges of the paper so that they’re evenly distributed. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, brush down the bottom, sides and edges of the tart shell with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Return the tart pan to the oven and bake another 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.

To prepare the filling, scoop two cups of the roasted pumpkin flesh out of the pumpkin halves and place in a large bowl. (Note – any left-overs can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator and later turned into a lovely savory soup or puree!) Using a hand-held mixer, blend together the pumpkin for 2 minutes on medium and blend into a smooth consistency. Add the eggs and light brown sugar, and blend together on medium for another minute, or until fully incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients and blend to combine on medium until fluffy, aerated, and fully incorporated. Gently ladle or pour the custard into the prepared tart shell, leaving a 1/4″-deep tart border. Place on a baking sheet and bake on the center rack of the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 325F and continue baking until the custard has just set and quivers slightly to the touch, about 45 minutes total. Cool completely before slicing, or refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Bring on the whipped cream!

Recipe from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, Sweet and Southern by Holly Herrick (Gibbs Smith, Fall, 2011. Photo taken and generously shared by Helene DuJardin,

Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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