Here’s a Mandarin Custard Tart that proves a point. I’m very influenced by The French Laundry Cookbook. Not that this recipe comes from that book. In fact I don’t cook actual recipes from this masterpiece very often. There was a time when I honed my burgeoning skills by following Thomas Keller’s precise, well-crafted directions. I became a serious (though often bumbling) cook by attempting several of the impeccable creations from his first book. But I’ve moved on. Sorta.
Whenever I get inspired to create a recipe of my own I always check a few resources before I pull out a pot or a pan (or a tart tin).
If my plans include roasting meat, I trust Judy Rodgers. She knows how to transform a big chunk of beef, lamb, or pork into juicy, post-roast perfection. I may not always follow her recipes but I have her techniques practically memorized.
Similarly I always run my sauces by Daniel Boulud. For rustic baking techniques I turn to Dorie Greenspan. Custards belong to Thomas Keller.
Mandarin Custard Tart
Which isn’t to say that this Mandarin Custard Tart is Thomas Keller’s Mandarin Custard Tart. In The French Laundry Cookbook Keller says “these recipes… have been painstakingly documented, but they should be used as tools rather than exact blueprints.”
Well, in my case it took a few rounds of “painstakingly” treating his recipes (and techniques) as “exact blueprints” before I really understood what he meant.
Custard has a basic ratio: 3 eggs to every 2 cups of liquid. That liquid must contain a certain level of fat (typically cream). Too little fat and the texture goes off. Too much fat and it can develop an unpleasant mouthfeel. I learned this by “painstakingly” following Keller’s directions for Parmesan Custard.
He also says that custard baked in a pastry shell “invariably overcooks”. He may be right about that, but his quiches are some of the best I’ve ever had. Is that a contradiction? I don’t know… but my Mandarin Custard Tart (baked in a pastry shell) was delicious. I’ll give Thomas Keller credit for that, but I still consider this my own creation. GREG