Say it with Sabayon: Awe-Inspiring Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart from The French Laundry Cookbook

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Now here is a recipe worth knowing. Like the Zuni Cafe cookbook, my French Laundry cookbook has sat mostly ignored in the brief time I’ve owned it. The thing is, it’s so humongous and so intimidating that it’s like bringing “Ulysses” to the beach. It just isn’t done. But last night it was done and damn was it cold on the beach! Just kidding. I didn’t go to the beach. But I did make a lemon sabayon-pine nut tart from The French Laundry cookbook and DAMN girl did it knock our socks off.

Lisa was a huge help in this endeavor. In fact, I may go so far as to say that this tart would never have come out as good as it did were it not for Lisa. She played two key roles: (1) she was a good crust distributor, pushing the pine nut crust mixture evenly around the tart pan; (2) she was an Olympic athlete when it came to whisking the sabayon as it cooked over the double boiler. My arm and wrist and elbow got crazy tired after just one minute, so she took over and just whisked and whisked and whisked until there was no tomorrow. You’ll see pictures in a moment.

Because this recipe was so dazzling, I’m going to reprint it here. The official recipe also includes Honeyed Mascarpone Cream, but we didn’t think that was necessary. And our tart-tasters were so laudatory (several said this was the best lemon tart they’d ever had) that you’ll be fine without it. Let’s begin, shall we?

Ingredients

Butter and flour for the tart pan

1/3 recipe Pine Nut Crust (recipe follows)

[Ok, so you have to make the pine nut crust first and then divide it in three and only use a third. To quote Keller: “Since the recipe uses only one egg, it would be difficult to cut down, but the extra dough can be frozen for future use.” This is exactly what we did, so you should do it too.]

Pine Nut Crust Ingredients

2 cups (10 oz.) pine nuts

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

16 Tbs (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times.

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Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle).

Add the softened butter, the egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients. Divide the dough into three parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using. The dough can be frozen for future use.

Lemon Sabayon Ingredients

2 large eggs, cold

2 large egg yolks, cold

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

6 Tbs (3 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

And now for the tart…

FOR THE CRUST:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.

Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.

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Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate the shell and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the shell is a golden brown. Remove the shell from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. There may be some cracks in the shell; they will not affect the tart.

[NOTE: Look how ours came out. Do you see any cracks? No. Perfection. We rock!]

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For the Lemon Sabayon:

Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the mixing bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar for about 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth.

Set the bowl over the pot and using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl, for even heating.

[Lisa whisked, I turned the bowl.]

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After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and when the mixture thickens again, add another one third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened, light in color, and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

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Turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the water as you add the butter: Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart shell and place the pan on a baking sheet.

[Isn’t this picture cool? Our friend Annette took it. Good job Annette!]

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And now for the most exciting cooking moment in the history of cooking ever. I am writing this in bold to emphasize how exciting it was. At this point, I had 4 guests over and all of us (minus one guest busy watching “Desperate Housewives”) stood in the kitchen watching as this moment happened. It involved a broiler. Let’s let Keller tell you what to do first.

Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; do not leave the oven—this will happen in a few seconds.

Do you see how exciting this was? So we put it under the broiler:

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And we all crouched watching eagerly. Nothing seemed to be happening.

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Then, suddenly, magic. The top began to get white and grainy. The sugar coming to the surface? Yes, I think it was that. For soon it was turning brown! We all ooohed and ahhhed. “Turn it!” shouted someone. I did. “Turn it again!” I tried. But it was browned enough—we removed it from the oven and beheld the following (which you’ve already seen but now you can see in context):

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Actually, we didn’t behold that until we followed this instruction:

Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.

So you see we waited until it cooled until we pushed the bottom through and revealed the tart in all its glory. Want to see it again?

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Then we cut slices. Look at this glorious slice:

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Look at Annette looking at her glorious slice:

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And here are the tart-eaters tart-eating under the new painting I bought two days ago at a flea market for $60:

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We honestly all loved this tart. Some (like Lisa) loved it for the crust. (“I don’t usually like crust,” explained Lisa, “but I like THIS crust.”) Liz and Annette both said this was the best lemon tart they’d ever had. (And Liz doesn’t even like lemons). And Joe said: “Mmmm, that was good.”

Inspired? As well you should be. And just in case, maybe this picture will inspire you? It’s really the sexiest tart ever. Go make it!

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