Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

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This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.

“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”

Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.

And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.

Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.

This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…

To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.

frangipane ingredients

Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:

as you can see i beat this by hand, but feel free to use and electric or stand mixer if that’s what makes you happy : )

(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)

As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.

before
after. i used quince jelly because i had it, but the original recipe calls for red currant.

By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.

are you enticed yet? : )
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Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

Course Dessert
Cuisine French, traditional
Keyword almond paste, autumn feel good, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, dessert ideas, fall feel good, feel good food plan, frangipane, fruit tart, holiday dessert, holiday tart, holidays, juila child’s pear tart, julia child, julia child’s poached pear tart, poached pear tart, poached pears, sugar crust, sweet treats, thanksgiving
Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

Sugar Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 7 Tbs chilled butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Poached Pears

  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly (or other preserves with mild flavor)

Instructions

Sugar Crust

  • Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
  • Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frangipane

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
  • Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
  • Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Poached Pears

  • Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
  • Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.

Tart Assembly

  • Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
  • Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

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Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.