#12 : Quince-Frangipane Tart
("It's an Everything Everywhere pie.")
In California I had a mentor, "Mama" Sue Steinberg, who introduced me to opera - and to the wonderful classical music parodist Anna Russell. (See a typical example of her performance style here.) Jeff also knew of Anna Russell (most serious musicians do) and after we met, we learned that we both loved her silly comic demonstrations of "proper singing." In one video (which, sadly, I can't locate) she instructed a would-be singer, "If you don't know how to make this face, just imagine eating a quince." This line always stayed with me, and decades later when I first saw a quince, I had to buy it - all because of Anna Russell.
Quinces are an amazing fruit but, as mentioned above, are completely inedible in their natural (raw) state. You must remove the fibrous core and seeds and then cook the fruit (usually by poaching) in order to make it edible.
Over the years I've learned to grab quinces whenever I see them (check farm stands in the fall; quinces are generally available September through December) and I'll poach them right away (quinces in the photo above poached with star anise) and preserve them for future use. (If you see quinces and are interested, here are poaching instructions.)
What pie is Oscar-worthy?
I always watch the Oscars, and for at least 25 years my friend Lorie (from our days together at North Fork Bank) and I have had a "friendly" Oscar competition. Each year we make our predictions as to what will win the Oscar in each of the 23 categories. (This has extended to our even making predictions as to what films and performances will be nominated, but the prediction of the Oscar win is all-important.) I'm the usual champion, getting the highest number of correct predictions probably 20 out of the 25 years we've done this, with Lorie winning 4 times and once, amazingly, we tied, which was great fun. There's not too much of a real prize; the loser buys the winner their favorite candy (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for me, peanut M&M's for Lorie) but the real victory is yearlong gloating rights for the winner...and boy, do we take advantage of those gloating rights. There's even a "Loser Dance" that the loser usually has to perform...the more humiliating, the better.
I found the quince and pistachio frangipane tart recipe in the Sweeter Off the Vine book, and decided to make a full-sized tart (rather than mini tartlets) in honor of the Oscars. The recipe I used is unavailable (copyrighted) but there is a variation from Martha Stewart here. Since I had some preserved quinces that I poached last fall, that part was easy - all I had to do was open the jar and drain the quinces.
The frangipane (usually made with almonds but this time a pistachio variation) was easily made in the food processor and, as mentioned, I had some jars of poached quinces in the basement, along with many jars of homemade tomato sauce and poached/canned figs and apricots, all ready to be used and eaten up...soon.
(When you drain the poached quinces, make sure to save the poaching liquid - you can cook it down to make a thick syrup fantastic on yogurt, ice cream, or drizzled on a pie.)
Since the pistachio frangipane had a greenish-gold hue, I thought it might be fun to make a stencil of an Oscar and leave that uncovered to make "a little gold man" surrounded by salmon-colored quinces. I found a silhouette of the Oscar online, printed it, and cut the shape out on cardboard to make a sort of stencil.
Nice idea, perhaps, but my quinces were too soft and the minute I removed the stencil they started collapsing and sinking into the frangipane, and I was unable to pull them out in order to make a nice symmetrical border of quinces. I decided to just leave them and let them look kind of wild and unpredictable - just like the Oscars themselves often are.
The Verdict: Oscar Winner or Loser?
I didn't mention the collapsing quinces to Jeff, and so when he saw it, he said, "You made an Everything Everywhere All At Once pie!" It does look kind of wild and psychotic like that movie, which went on to win 7 Oscars, including...Best Picture? Really? (I may be in the minority, but I hated that movie and gave up on it halfway through. Truthfully, the few Oscar-nominated movies I saw this year all pretty much left me cold.) The tart, though, was a winner, with the quince a perfect complement to the frangipane. We both liked it. Right after dinner I had gone down the street to my friend Emily's house (we saved a lot of money by getting rid of our cable; usually not a problem until I want to watch the Oscars.) This way, Jeff could ignore the Oscars altogether and just go to bed while I stayed up late. During the telecast he sent a text, "This tart is incredible!"
I was less successful in my attempt to win back the title of "Oscar expert." Lorie had won last year, and won again this year with 17 correct predictions to my 15.
We did, however, have fun with our usual commentary, texting and/or calling each other during every commercial break to say, "That singing sounded like a dying moose" or "What on earth is she wearing?" We did easily agree on who was the worst-dressed at the Oscars...no contest.
FYI, the pre-show interviewer Ashley Graham was by far the worst-dressed (seen in the above photo in the sheer outfit that revealed her black sports bra and panties; Hugh Grant was in no mood for her and gave a hilariously bored answer to every one of her questions, complete with eye-rolling. Classic!) Then, during the show, along came Florence Pugh (the kewpie doll in her bed sheets, seen in the lower photo.) Lorie and I both screamed, "Whaaaaaaaaaat???" and grabbed the phone, laughing hysterically. It's nice to have a friend who happily shares the Oscars in all their glory (or lack thereof.) Almost worth knowing Lorie will gloat all year about beating me yet again. My rallying cry - "Just wait 'til next year - I shall be avenged!" (And in the meantime will enjoy my Everything Everywhere tart.)