I present to you this prize of my recipe collection with what can only be described as…guilt.
My mother recently asked what I’d be posting in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. I knew she had pie on her mind, because that is the topic of the hour at any given time in our house, starting at the outset of November. You’ll find her at the kitchen counter making lists for Thanksgiving, and most of that list will be dedicated to her pies.
We factor nearly a pie per person at our Thanksgiving table, and we’ll have much pie leftover, which is exactly the point. I’m finally coming to understand that Thanksgiving dinner is more about leftovers than it is about Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover pie for breakfast (and lunch and dinner, too) the day after Thanksgiving is a sacred ritual at our house. Bathrobe, cup of coffee, piece of pie. Conversation will be about which pie was best. My mom loves to tell the story of how at breakfast, her own mother, Alice, would push a piece of pie across the table to my father, whom she adored, and say: "A little piece of pie won’t hurt anything."
Now. Chocolate-caramel pecan tart is better than good. It is amazing. Everyone who I have ever watched take a first bite gasps and talks with their mouth full to say, "Oh!," "Oh my GOSH!," and closes their eyes to take in the luscious flavor of caramel, salty toasted pecans, and chocolate.
A pecan tart is not, however, pie. It is a tart. There is a difference. According to my mama, it's a big difference whose gap is so wide it cannot be crossed. Why not a pie?, was my mom’s question when she heard the word “tart.” You’ve never done a pie for them, actually, she said.
What in the….She was right; I scoured my back-posts and see that no, at that point I had not posted about pie. I do love to bake pie, I promise you that, and have been making them with my mom’s spectacularly good crust for a lot of years. I like her flaky pie crust far better than any tart crust I’ve ever eaten. Pie is one of my mother’s great legacies of the kitchen, a love passed from her own mother to her, precious like the diamond lavalier necklace worn around Grandma’s tiny neck on her wedding day and now resting in Mom’s velvet-lined jewelry box for similar special occasions. How could I not post about pie, especially at Thanksgiving?
Forgiveness was found, though, when I told her which tart we’d be making. She knows how good it is, and remembers that we often had this tart at one of our favorite Chicago restaurants, Mon Ami Gabi, over the years when she and my dad would visit my sister and me, and then on her own in the many years since he died. I loved the tart so much that I published my first piece of “food writing” for it when I wrote years ago to Bon Appetit magazine’s R.S.V.P. department and asked if they could get the recipe. They did, and they published it. I’ve adapted the recipe to work with ease in the home kitchen, and use my own tried-and-true push-in (no rolling pin required!) tart crust recipe that includes almond meal for a flavor boost. The tart is perfect for a labor-intensive meal because it can be made a day ahead.
The thing made me a kind of a dining rock star back at Mon Ami Gabi, where one of my dinner companions, my dear friend Ed, once told the waiter just who he was waiting on. I blushed, but only for a moment, because then the chef came out and told me the Bon Appétit column was taped to the wall in their kitchen, and here you go, a slice of tart on the house. I admit that happened more than once because from then on they knew who I was when I came a-eating dinner there.
Usually I took my tart to go, though, to eat for breakfast the next morning. —Maureen Abood
This tart is very decadent -- it would be ideal in petit four-size doses, as a wedge is a commitment for even a hardcore sweets lover. I liked the crust and especially appreciated the 'no roll' method -- a pretty foolproof way to press out a perfect tart crust. The filling, chocolate caramel (with chopped nuts) topped with chocolate, is more candy than pie. This tart would be an attractive addition to the Thanksgiving spread -- an indulgence only suited to the holidays. —Allison Bruns Buford