Our friend, Laura, throws a great party. And she does it often. The food and drinks are always good and the atmosphere convivial and casual. One of the best things about her entertaining style is that she doesn’t wait to have a reason to entertain–no big occasion or anything. She usually says, “Gee, I haven’t seen you guys in a while; come over, bring the family, and hang out.”
The kids will watch a movie on the deck via an outside projector and the adults will sit around the fire pit and nosh and quaff. And somehow Laura never seems to break a sweat, even with three kids to contend with, including one adorable 3-year-old handful. Okay, how does she do it? She plans thoughtfully but not obsessively. She’ll think about one or two things to make from scratch, like fresh mozzarella pizzas on the grill using Trader Joe’s pizza dough or the Barefoot Contessa’s delicious feta and tomato bruschetta. The rest of the menu she’ll round out with good cheeses, crackers, crudité and a nice dip from Trader Joe’s fresh case. Guests can bring something if they want, or just bring themselves if they didn’t feel like cooking or didn’t have time. No pressure and no expectations other than to relax and have a little conversation among friends.
The Friday night before Mother’s Day was one such occasion. Just for the ladies, Laura hosted a Stella & Dot trunk show.
Stella & Dot is a San Francisco-based, woman-owned jewelry and accessories company. They’ve got lovely stuff. Their business model is ‘social selling’ which means ‘modern day Tupperware Party with bling.’ I didn’t take any photos of the bling because I was busy mingling and trying on, but here’s an adorable set of turquoise studs that I won (yes, we played a couple of games, but they weren’t too obnoxious.)
So, back to the food.
I made these little lemon curd tartlets with blueberry and mint.
I know those look like black olives, but trust, me they are blueberries. I picked the mint from our backyard and stuck the littlest leaves in the curd before walking the plate up to Laura’s house. They were good. Not too sweet and just tart enough with juicy lemon flavor and a smooth curd to play off the flaky crust.
I hadn’t made lemon curd before although I love lemon desserts. If it’s on a menu at a restaurant, lemon tart is what I’m ordering! I read through a few recipes and settled on this one from my clippings file from Gourmet 2007. I chose it because it didn’t call for a double boiler and other recipes called for using the whole egg or for whole eggs combined with additional separated yolks. I knew I wanted a smooth curd, and nothing too ‘eggy.’ I love the consistency of hollandaise sauce so it seemed right to go with a lemon curd recipe that just utilized the yolks.
I clipped this recipe, Trompe L’oeil “Egg” Lemon Pudding (yes, clipped, like from the actual magazine) because it looked awesome. The photo of the pudding and yellow curd in an egg shell looked just like a real poached egg. you can go to see the complete trompe l’oeil dessert photo.)
(Can we have a moment of silence for the dearly departed Gourmet magazine? Why oh why Conde Nast did you kill it?)
Lemon Curd Tartlets with Blueberries and Mint
- 1 Trader Joe’s Gourmet Pie Crust, defrosted (you can certainly use your favorite recipe for pâte sucrée here but I took a shortcut!)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted better, cut into small pieces
- Fresh blueberries, washed and dr
- Fresh mint leaves (the tinier the better)
MAKE PASTRY SHELLS:
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Lay out 1 pie crust on parchment paper and stamp out circles of dough with 2 in. cutter (I used a small juice glass.)
- Press dough circles lightly into 2 mini-muffin pans (you will get about 18-20 circles from one crust so your second pan will not be full)
- Blind bake the pastry shells for 20 minutes until golden brown. (NOTE: Usually with blind baking you should put pie weights on the pastry to keep it from puffing up too much. Again, I took a shortcut as the bling party time was approaching.)
- Let pastry shells cool on the counter while you make the lemon curd.
MAKE LEMON CURD:
Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, and yolks in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan. Add cold butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 4 minutes.
Force lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl, scraping bottom of sieve, then transfer to ice bath and stir frequently until cold. Cover surface of curd with wax paper and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Pop the shells out of the mini-muffin pans with a butter knife. Arrange shells on a clean baking sheet so you can begin filling them.
- With a small spoon, fill the shells with about a 1/2 tsp. of lemon curd filling.
- When all shells are filled, garnish each with a blueberry and mint leaf.