The first time you use an unfamiliar kitchen, and especially an unfamiliar oven, it can be quite a challenge. You don't know how that oven or stove is going to act...will it pull tricks on you? Burn everything you put in it? Have even heating? Become your nemesis? Pulling out my pots and pans for the first time in my new Hawaiian kitchen felt like stepping into a boxing ring, and I was not sure if I was ready to face my opponent...the new oven. To make matters worse, the first time I used it, I took on a real challenge: baking a tart for my 30th birthday. If it didn't come out, if I burned the crap out of it (or alternatively, if it ended up coming out looking like a sad, sorry, unevenly baked doughy little thing), I was sure going to be disappointed...
Now for a little background...Smoothtop, our resident champion, is known for a move Hawaii-5-O hasn't come up against in a quite a long time. It's called, "the broiler." In her last fight against the GE 5000, this little move was almost the end of Hawaii-5-O's love of baking! With nearly 100 degrees of extra heat under normal fight conditions, when the GE 5000 used "the broiler," it would short out the entire house, set off the fire alarms, burn the hell out of whatever was in the oven and end the fight. It took a fair amount of time before Hawaii-5-O figured out how to stop the GE 5000 from pulling that one on her, allowing her to finally take the lead and secure her Oregon title. Now that she's moved to the Islands though, she's got to win this fight or hang her head, give up the oven, and go back to the grill and the saute' pan if she lets Smoothtop best her.
And just what's at stake, you ask? Why nothing less than a year's worth of either burned or perfectly roasted meats and vegetables, and a whole lot of blackened or golden-brown baked goods, of course! The winner of this first round reigns supreme for the remainder of the time these two fighters are in the kitchen together, and there's no real second chance on this one. It's a fight to the "death" of a 30th birthday tart, and as you all know, you only get one 30th birthday. Beware folks - it may not be pretty. Parents should be advised that this fight could contain images of blackened crust, resulting in much cursing and language from one of our contenders (namely, Hawaii-5-O) that isn't appropriate for youngsters or maybe even the rest of the blogosphere.
But enough of this jabbering! Let's get this fight started! There's the bell -
tightening her apron as she goes...
She turns to the left,
quickly grabs the Cuisinart food processor and...
pulverizes a bunch of white nuts
(since this is Hawaii, they're probably macadamia nuts)!
This is obviously a move to unnerve Smoothtop
from his stoic stance on the far side of the kitchen.
But Smoothtop is still holding steady...
Hawaii-5-O turns and faces him, sneers...
She reaches up...
And she snaps Smoothtop's dial, turning it to a raging 350F!
That's pretty hot! These fighters aren't just playing around!
Smoothtop's face turns bright red with heat -
it looks like Hawaii-5-O has really pissed him off!
Hawaii-5-O returns to the far side of the kitchen,
even turning her back on Smoothtop (she's pretty brave to do that).
Will he turn on "the broiler" while she's not looking?
Now she's pressing those nuts into a tart pan,
and turning back to face Smoothtop -
he just let out a little whelp...
She quickly runs up to him, opens his door
and faces that red heat without even blinking.
Before old Smoothtop can even do a thing,
she's thrown the tart in, and closed the door!
Now she's back at the counter,
mixing, beating and folding -
all the while watching Smoothtop out of the corner of her eye.
In just 12 minutes, Hawaii 5'0"turns back around to face our champion,
approaches him slowly, and whips the tart out of the oven.
It looks like the fight is over and we have our winner, folks:
Hawaii-5-O reigns supreme!
She's the champion of this Hawaiian kitchen and
it looks like we can be expecting to see a fair amount of
oven-cooked and oven-baked recipes coming from this blog then.
Having prevailed at my first attempt at baking in this new oven, I felt it was time to celebrate (not only the baking, but surviving my 3rd decade and coming out with only a few gray hairs and wrinkles too - hey! you take what you can get at this age, right?) and LB and I opened up a bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne, a Christmas present from my sister and brother-in-law, which we brought all the way from Colorado to Eugene to Hawaii for this very occasion (the birthday), and toasted to my successes. I can't think of any better way than to celebrate...except maybe heading for the most amazing sushi restaurant that I've ever been to, but that's for LB's 30th, in a little over a week (we decided to split up the indulgences - I got the champagne on mine, he gets the amazing dinner on his, and we both benefit from each), and I'll fill you in on that when the time comes.
This recipe is extremely versatile and delicious. It garnered rave reviews (as did the champagne) and stories about it have even been shared (always a good sign, no?). I got the original recipe from a friend, who had modified it, and I further modified it by changing the crust and the topping. Make it with whatever you have in your neck of the woods or whatever is seasonal right now. I used a locally made Mango and Peach curd with Rose Petals from Planted by the River (see source info below), and it's smooth, gently sweetened taste went perfect with the slight tang of the mascarpone and cream cheese mix. The rose petals added a whole extra dimension of complexity to the curd and it all worked together perfectly.
Were I still in Eugene (yep - still occasionally dreaming), I'd make the crust with hazelnuts and do some kind of a berry jam or curd on top it. How about a hazelnut crust with huckleberry jam? Maybe an almond crust and meyer lemon curd on top? Oh, or thin slices in early spring strawberries would be just amazing too. Even here in Hawaii, I could have used lilikoi (passionfruit) or guava curd or jam, which was my original intent but the store was out, or even overlapping slices of fresh mango slices or another fruit nestled together (whole raspberries?) would have been both delicious and beautiful. I would have loved to have garnished the top with a few mango slices this time too, but alas, no mangos in the house this week. Maybe next time!
Planted by the River
You can order these delicious curds online, or there are several local sources listed on the website. Some time in the future, I may try and contact the entrepreneurs, Randy and Donna Nakamoto, directly to see if they would let me come see them make their beautiful exotic curds. And these curds are some of the best I have ever tasted. When doing the search for their website, I found that even Heidi, from 101 Cookbooks, agrees.