Sweet Potato – Coconut Milk Soup

I think most of us have a little neighborhood Thai restaurant that we just love. Mine isn’t something I would necessarily recommend to anyone. It isn’t anything super fantastic, the veggies in the soup possibly come from a can, their soda machine is usually out of the basics and there are people sign twirling on the corner (a big red arrow that says, Thai Food). It is my neighborhood Thai place, though, and I love it. Ben and I walk in and they smile brightly, know our orders without even asking and always give us extra peanut sauce;). It is the best, that little Thai place. It makes me feel like I’m home. I love it. Oh, and we go there a lot, obviously.

I needed a way to bring a little of that Thai home, to my kitchen, and came across this wonderful recipe in the Sweet Potatoes Issue of Short Stack Editions (Volume 6). It is a bold take on a simple Thai restaurant staple, tom kha. The sweet potatoes give the soup a richness that is delicious; it elevates the soup from a starter to a main dish. Scott Hocker, the author of this Short Stack volume, likes to puree the soup for a smoother texture. He admits it is inauthentic, but I have to agree that it tastes amazing this way.

Everyday – Vetiver

Sweet Potato – Coconut Milk Soup adapted from Short Stack: Sweet Potatoes, Volume 6.

You’ll need:

  • 2 small Thai or other hot chiles, stems removed
  • large shallot
  • garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro stems
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • medium sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1/2 – 1-inch pieces
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • roughly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

In a food processor, pulse (3 to 4 times) the chiles, shallot, garlic and cilantro stems.

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In a large pan, bring the stock and coconut milk to a boil, then down to a simmer.

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Add the chile-garlic mixture, sweet potato and about 3/4 teaspoon of salt.

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Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the sweet potato is extremely soft.

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Puree the soup until it’s smooth (I used a handheld immersion blender, but you can also use a regular blender). Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve, discard the solids and return to pan.

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Bring to a simmer. Add the brown sugar and lime juice.

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Add the soy sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Serve.

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Thai with a twist! This soup is so fabulous! Sweet, sour, rich, salty, everything. I love it and will definitely make it again! Enjoy!

Shopping Notes: All produce was purchased at Specialty Produce. Coconut milk and vegetable broth are from Trader Joe’s.

I encourage you to subscribe to Short Stack Editions. Amazing booklets with ingredient specific recipes that are simple, bold and delicious. Plus, fun mail (we can all use some good mail, right?)! Also, be sure to subscribe to the blog (at the right), follow on IG, Twitter and Facebook and #TheIncidentalSpoon!

Cheers!

The BEST Grilled Chicken

I am an avid reader. My mom teases that when I’m a little old lady, my house will be filled with books. Books in every corner, cabinet and crevice. Seeing as that is almost the case now, she is probably right! I will read anything I can get my hands on. For the past few years, I have been following The Morning News’ Tournament of Books. It is an annual Spring event where the best works of fiction from the past year are battled head to head in a March Madness type competition. It is fantastic and I LOVE IT. They release the chosen books in early January, seed them in early March (just like the NCAA tourney), and, for each pairing, an esteemed judge reads both novels and advances the one they’ve decided is the winner. The judge, tournament chairmen and readers all add their own commentary along the way. Eventually, two books remain, they are judged by the entire panel of judges and one is crowned the Rooster of 2014. Genius, right?!? Okay, so I have haphazardly tried to read all of the listed books in the past few years, never quite making it to all of them. This year, I am going to read them all. I hope. At this point I have read 7 of 17. I have been reading like a machine the past few weeks and plan to continue doing so. We must eat, though, right? I have some serious energy food for you in this post. A healthy and delicious combo perfect for power reading, or power [insert whatever you need power for here].

What I Wouldn’t Do – A Fine Frenzy

Cornell Chicken is the best way to make grilled chicken. I don’t think I’ll make grilled chicken any other way, ever again. The recipe below is my take on the classic. I’ve also included my recipe for Roasted Charred Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing.

Cornell Chicken

You’ll need:

  • 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (plus more for basting)
  • 3/4 cup evoo (plus more for basting)
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • clove of garlic (for basting)
  • salt and pepper

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Puree the vinegar, oil, poultry seasoning, and egg in a blender until well combined.

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Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour in the marinade.

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Refrigerate the marinating chicken for 2 to 4 hours.

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Heat the barbecue. In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons evoo and a minced garlic clove. You’ll use this mixture to baste the chicken while grilling.

Remove chicken from marinade, pat dry and sprinkle with salt.

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Grill the chicken, over medium high heat for about 40 minutes, basting frequently (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should read 165).

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The skin should be slightly charred.

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Roasted Charred Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing

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You’ll need:

  • two small heads cauliflower, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon evoo
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup evoo
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sliced cauliflower, evoo and s & p on a baking sheet.

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Roast cauliflower, turning once, for about 20 minutes. Then place under broiler for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.

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Don’t be afraid of over cooking; the more charred, the better.

Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing, adding a bit of water if too thick.

Plate the chicken over a bed of baby arugula (the arugula will wilt a little from the warm chicken, this is so fabulous). Squeeze half a lemon over the arugula and chicken. Drizzle dressing over the cauliflower (next time I make this, I’m going to char the cauliflower with the dressing on it).

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And, there you have it, a power reading lunch! Now, back to the books!

Shopping notes: The chicken is Mary’s Free Range, local organic, from Pitman Family Farms, bought at Whole Foods. I also purchased the purple and cheddar cauliflower from Whole Foods.

You can follow my Tournament of Books (#ToBX) progress on GoodReads (see sidebar)! Also, be sure to follow the blog and #TheIncidentalSpoon if you try any of the recipes!

Cheers!

42.36 – Roasted Eggplant Spread

My friend, Ashley, picked 42.36. I met Ashley about four or five years ago; our kids go to the same elementary school and are around the same ages. We both have two boys, her youngest and my youngest shared the same kindergarten teacher; the boys have had a lot of fun together over the years. Ashley is an amazing cook. I would say we have similar tastes in the cook books we own and what we turn to as our favorite recipes. We both share a love for a fabulous glass of wine, entertaining and Ina Gartin. Ashley and her neighbors throw fabulous Friday afternoon cul de sac parties where the kids run amok and the adults enjoy amazing food and company. She has been a wonderful friend to me over the years and I look forward to many more memories with her and her family.

Country on the Radio – Blake Shelton

#42 – To be completely honest, when Ashley first picked the number, over a month ago, it turned up a different recipe than what I made for this post. I’ve since added cookbooks, randomly, to my list (holiday gifts, etc.) which changed the order of things. When I went to check the number this week, I was really excited for what came up; this is definitely a more fitting recipe. #42 is Ina Gartin’s, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I wish you could see my copy of this book! It no longer has it’s book jacket, the pages are crispy and sticking together, there are pages with stains or dried flour; needless to say, it is well-loved. Ina Gartin’s books are such a great starting point for home cooks. She uses limited ingredients to make simple, elegant and delicious dishes for any occasion.

.36 – page 36 is actually the beginning of the Appetizers section of the cook book. The first recipe of the section is on page 41, Roasted Eggplant Spread. This is fantastic recipe for the new year! Simple, healthy, loaded with good vegetables, and very tasty. The perfect party recipe as it can be used as a dip, spread or even spooned into lettuce cups.

Roasted Eggplant Spread adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons evoo
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • crackers, toast, pita chips, and/or lettuce cups for serving

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the eggplant, bell peppers and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them, on a baking sheet, with the garlic, evoo, salt, and pepper.

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Roast for 45 minutes, tossing once halfway through…

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…until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft. Cool for about 5 minutes.

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Place the roasted vegetables into a food processor with a steel blade, add the tomato paste and pulse 4 times to blend.

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Taste for salt and pepper, serve.

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This is such an easy recipe to make, but so satisfying. We spooned the spread into lettuce cups and it was delicious!

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A very healthy, beautiful snack to share at your Super Bowl party!

Shopping Notes: All the vegetables were purchased at Whole Foods.

Be sure to #TheIncidentalSpoon and follow the blog so you don’t miss a thing!

Butternut Squash Soup

This week I am going to pick the recipes. I decided to not leave it to the masses (well, really, my faithful few;)) as I am leaving on an impromptu trip to Denver this weekend. Did you hear? Our San Diego Super Chargers are in the playoffs and are playing the Denver Broncos on Sunday! My brother (a Chargers fan, let’s make that CLEAR) lives in Denver & since the hubs has to travel up there to cover the team, I thought this an opportune time to visit the baby bro, drink some beer and just send some good juju to our team.

The Boys of Fall – Kenny Chesney

Also, you should watch this video from Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Pure joy.

San Diego, and the rest of California, is enjoying beautiful sunshine and normal temperatures while the rest of the country seems to be suffering through Winter something fierce! In honor of our countrymen, I am posting a soup recipe. This Butternut Squash Soup can be enjoyed in any weather, but is especially good when it is crisp outside.

Butternut Squash Soup, this recipe will make about 2.5 quarts.

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons evoo
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • 3 ounces goat cheese, for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chopped shallots, sliced garlic and a big pinch of salt.

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Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until shallots are just turning brown (about 2 minutes). Add the squash cubes…

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and the curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and crushed red pepper.

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Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.

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Add the vegetable stock, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

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Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender (about 25 minutes).

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth.

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Return the soup to the saucepan. Add the heavy cream.

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Stir until the soup is hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of goat cheese and cilantro leaves. I am a huge believer in goat cheese in butternut squash soup; it gives it a little extra tang that I just love. TRY IT!

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Enjoy!

Be sure to follow the blog & #TheIncidentalSpoon if you try any of the recipes!

Stay warm! Go Chargers!

P.S. Posting a very fun drink on Sunday morning to go with your football viewing! I’ll be hinting ingredients, so you’ll be prepared to make it, via Instagram (TheIncidentalSpoon) & Twitter (@IncidentalSpoon) the rest of the week! Be sure to follow!

11.109 – Beer-Battered Fried Avocado Tacos with Sriracha Curtido

My mother-in-law, Kim, picked 11.109. I dare you to find a cooler mother-in-law than mine. No joke. She rocks as a mom, MiL, grandmother, and friend. Her heart is quite possibly bigger than the universe and, if you are in her circle, she will do just about anything for you. I am blessed to have her as my MiL, as I’m sure my sister-in-law, Kai, and brother-in-law, Mason, would agree. I love her so much. She actually inspired me to become a better cook as she is an amazing cook, herself. Family dinners at the Higgins’ are always so much fun, warm, loving, and delicious. We are blessed to live near Kim and my father-in-law, Steve, and see them often.

Taco tunes… Knee Deep – Zac Brown Band with Jimmy Buffet

#11 – The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens. I have both of Randy’s Sriracha cookbooks, this one and Sriracha Cookbook. If you are a Sriracha fan like me, you need these books. Randy lives in Southern California and is the Associate Digest Editor at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a huge craft beer afficianado, coauthoring The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., and we actually have mutual friends in common. I try to use his recipes as much as possible (he has an AMAZING Beer Nog recipe) because, well, try to KEEP IT LOCAL, right? Check out his website for more recipes, craft beer write-ups and more. Oh, did I mention that he loves Sriracha?

.109 – page 109 is a recipe for Beer-Battered Fried Avocados with Sriracha Curtido. In his cookbook, Randy claims this recipe to be inspired by Chef Alex Carballo (Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens), who also makes an outstanding BBFAT. In fact, Chef Alex’s tacos are one of my favorite things to order when we head out to Stone for lunch. Seriously, how much more dreamy does it get…the creamy avocado with a fried beer-batter encasing it! These would be the perfect thing to make for that football party you’re having next Sunday (Chargers vs. Denver, perhaps?).

Beer-Battered Fried Avocado Tacos with Sriracha Curtido adapted from The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook. This recipe serves four.

Curtido

You’ll need:

  • about 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt

To make the curtido, boil 4 cups of water. Toss the cabbage, onion and carrot in a large bowl.

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Pour the boiling water over the cabbage mix and let stand for about five minutes.

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Drain well and return to bowl.

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Combine 1/2 cup of water, apple cider vinegar, Sriracha, oregano, sugar, and salt in a small pan.

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Bring to a boil, making sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.

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Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use. It can be stored for up to a week. Randy recommends letting it sit for a day or two to let the flavors meld. I made my curtido a day ahead and it was excellent.

Beer-Battered Fried Avocados

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups strong amber ale (I used Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large, ripe Hass avocados
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 8-16 warm corn tortillas
  • cilantro leaves for garnish

To make the fried avocados, whisk the ale, flour, garlic powder, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

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Prepare a heavy pan with about two to three inches of oil (do not fill more than halfway up the pan). Heat the oil to 375 degrees (I just flicked a few drops of water in the oil to make sure it was hot enough, when it pops, it’s hot).

Put the panko in a shallow dish.

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Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, scoop them out, and cut each half into four slices.

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Dunk the slices into the ale mixture.

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Shake off any excess then roll each piece in the panko.

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Carefully lower each piece into the hot oil and fry until deep golden brown (about 3 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper.

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Assemble the tacos. Top each tortilla with two fried avocado slices. Then put a big scoop of the curtido (shake to get rid of some of the liquid) on top of the avocado. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

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Heaven. Seriously.

I paired these with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. You can drink any darn craft beer you want, these are tacos. All beer goes with tacos.

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There you go, the perfect football watching recipe. Make them. Now. Be sure to #TheIncidentalSpoon and follow the blog so you don’t miss a thing!

Go Chargers! #BoltUp #BoltsBeliever #BeatDenver (How ’bout those hashtags;))

French Lemon Tart

Happy New Year! I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I am constantly striving to be the best I can and don’t need the added pressure of failing a resolution. As a mom, wife, daughter, and friend, I am always looking for ways to love more, empathize more, be kinder, and have more patience. That being said, the holidays always throw me into a frenzy. Every. Single. Year. Honestly, I thought I would blog straight through the holidays this year, piece of cake; obviously that didn’t happen. I cooked like crazy the past three weeks. I host a family Christmas Brunch for about 20; beer nog, mimosas, egg casserole, cinnamon buns, brisket, waffles made to order, and more. But, in the frenzy of the holiday, I just never found that pocket of time to do what I love, write and document about all of the cooking. I plan to work on that this year. So I guess if I make one resolution it will be to find the time to blog, even when it seems too hectic and crazy to do just that; I will stick my earphones in, turn the music up, cook, take pictures, and write.

This is the New Year – A Great Big World

I saw this recipe in this month’s Food & Wine. It reached out of the magazine and grabbed me; I’m not joking. It just sounded so fresh, bright and perfect for my first post of the New Year. I had a few dear friends and family members over last night for dinner and we shared the French Lemon Tart for dessert. It is an absolutely stunning dessert to serve to guests. Very tart, sweet and lemony.

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French Lemon Tart adapted from Food & Wine, January 2014.

You’ll need:

Pastry

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups & 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (& more for dusting)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter diced

Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick & 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into tablespoons
  • lightly sweetened whipped cream (1 cup cream, teaspoon sugar, teaspoon vanilla extract – whip)

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Pastry:

Whisk the cream with the egg yolk in a small bowl.

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In a large bowl, mix the 1 1/4 cups & 2 tablespoons flour with the sugar and pinch of salt. With your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

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Using a rubber spatula or spoon, carefully stir in the yolk mixture. Using your hands, knead the pastry until it just comes together (you may need to add a teaspoon of cold water, but be careful to not add too much).

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Wrap in plastic, flatten to a disk and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 12-inch circle. Carefully place the pastry in the tart pan, pressing it into the corners. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to cut off excess pastry. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.

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Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper and beans and bake the tart for 15-20 minutes longer, until golden brown. Let cool completely.

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Filling:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and pinch of salt.

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Whisk until smooth.

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Set a bowl and a strainer near the stove. Cook the custard over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, whisking until incorporated.

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Strain filling into the bowl.

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Scrape strained filling into the cooled tart shell and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the tart ring and serve with whipped cream.

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There is something so special about serving something so beautiful to people you love.

Shopping notes: Organic lemons, eggs and cream purchased from Trader Joe’s. Yellow tulips also from Trader Joe’s. Braided placemat from Sur la Table. Crystal cake stand from Tiffany & Co.

Again, Happy New Year to you and yours! May this year bring many blessings both big and small.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow on Twitter & Instagram! Use #TheIncidentalSpoon if you try any of the recipes I post! I already have some amazing numbers/recipes in the works for the new year!

Santé!