26 January 2009

Pear Martine Tart

The weather is still quite frosty....so,
I couldn't resist offering up another recipe out the Nonna Genia Cookbook. This double crusted polenta tart filled with tiny heirloom poached pears, melts in your mouth, leaving you begging for more. Well, that's at least what one of our friends said the other night after his second helping. Next time he cautioned, "forget the rest of the dinner and serve only this tart, it's that good." Spoken like the true Piemontese man that he is.

Yes, I have been on a bit of a polenta kick, but, tis still the season in this part of the world.
Martine pears are an old Piemontese variety that are a small, hard and too dry to eat raw, so they are one of the traditional pears that you will find softened up by the wonderful process of cooking them in a wine bath with plenty of spices. It can be white or red, or you may poach them in a spicy simple syrup. I cooked up a batch enough for the tart and to savor while still warm and fragrant just after the flame goes off. The ones you are using for the tart will need to cool a bit before you peel, slice and pop them into your crust lined tart pan. I cooked mine so that they were still firm since they will be baked in the oven as well. I added small whole plums that are about the size of cherries that I had bottled earlier this year and paired nicely with the pears to add a contrast in flavors between the buttery layers. I peeled my pears after poaching, although if you peel them before they will have a beautiful red color.
I was chatting with the market woman from whom I bought them, and mentioned this recipe from Alba in the Langhe, our famous wine growing region, and not quite an hour away from here. My little vendor lady is 85 years old and was amazed to hear about putting these in a polenta crust. Several other of the vendors were listening in and joined in the discussion. None of them had ever heard of a polenta crust for using with these pears. There ensued a lively discussion, between the stalls. I am continually amazed how different things can be in such short distances here. It makes me think about how cut off people were in the old days and the recipes here vary valley to valley to plains. It is remarkable to me, unlike in America when the latest green bean casserole hits one part of America, it spreads around the country like a virus.
I might just have to make a tart to take down there one of these days, but I think it's out of the question for this year, because I scoured the whole market the other day and nobody had any of these. So I guess that's one for next year and it's on to the next brand of firm pear to try.

Torta di Pere Martine
For the pears
500g (generous pound) Martine pears, (or any hard variety that will hold up when poached)
1/2 bottle of Dolcetto wine, or your favorite fruity red wine
300g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves

Mix together in a pot that will hold the lot and simmer, covered, 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove from the syrup, reserve for another poaching or reduce the wine down for a sauce as an accompaniment, is another delish option.

For the crust
75 g-100g (1/4 -1/3 or so cup) flour
150g (1 cup) polenta flour, You could use corn flour, but it is much nicer if a coarser grind is used
100g (1/2 sugar)
100g (1/2c or less) butter, firm, but not right out of the fridge, cut up into smaller pieces
3 egg yolks

Small plums, like green gages, a handful or so
10" or 25cm Tart pan with removable bottom, buttered and floured.

Thoroughly mix the flour and polenta and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, fork or as I did last time. with my fingers. I worked quickly so the butter didn't melt, but only softened enough to make a nice crumbly texture. I added the egg yolk in last and mix with a fork before gathering it up into a mound. I used a bit of extra flour to make handling easier, as it seems to need just a bit more flour. It will vary I think depending on your texture of your polenta. I let it rest in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Then I divided it into two slightly uneven portions, rolling then out between sheets of parchment paper. Cling film will work as well, but you might need to refrigerate the sheets if they become too warm. The larger portion went in my buttered and floured tart pan before I layered thick slices of pears all round the bottom and arranged the small plums scattered on top of the pears. Cover with the second sheet and seal.

Bake in a preheated 350*F/180*C for 10-15 minutes, increasing the heat to 375*F/190*C for another 20-25, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on it as it is quite buttery and can go beyond golden quite quickly.
Cool before serving warm with a drizzle or drowning of wine sauce.

Cooks notes
The original recipe calls for peeling and cubing the pears before poaching. Then you pour the whole mixture in to a square pan that has been lined. I had visions of not being able to get the mixture out of the pan from the juices soaking through, so I reserved the liquid for a sauce to go along with and I liked the results very much. I think I would use more of the plums next time, as I enjoyed the combination. You could use cherries in place of the plums.

I find the curvaceous topping appealing, what do think?


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Now that I am definitely going to make! I love the story you have told with this, about the local people never having heard of using a polenta crust for a pear tart. Very interesting.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Yes a very interesting story, I would try and take one of your tarts for them to taste :-)

Bella Baita Marla said...

WL...I am always amazed how much of a microcosm it is here, maybe Europe in general. It makes it interesting to me indeed.
Anne I will although I don't know if I can find that particular variety and so it might have to wait till next yer, although I guess I might find something similar...but not these tiny guys though, just have to keep looking.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea and will try it soon, Marla :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh yes I find the cavernous topping fantastic as well as the inside! I can easily see by your guest would be happy to call this the meal!
I think it would be super fun to take one to the ladies in the stalls . . .

giz said...

Boy do I live in a bubble - I have never seen nor would I ever have thought of using polenta as a crust. I must say though - it does look pretty interesting to me.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Maryann and Tanna, I will try.
Thanks Giz, I don't think it's a bubble, just haven't come across it yet. Now we have the internet, one can virtually try a lot more things than were possible.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Marla, Marla, Marla!! I've been imagining the taste! It sounds and looks wonderful, curves and all!

Anonymous said...

So qrazy..


Italy farmhouses said...

Nice recipe ..........realy I like It.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks, Im glad you do.

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