Sometimes it feels like the hectic holiday season provides few opportunities for merry elves to take a breath let alone enjoy a quiet moment sipping cider by the fire. Hokey made-for-TV movies make it seem like stringing lights, wrapping gifts and hanging wreaths magically happens over-night , but savvy decorators know all about the real work involved in setting the stage for a divine holiday. Sweeping rouge pine needles, hammering countless nails and carefully stowing all of the ugliest ornaments on the back of the tree is an exhausting and time consuming task. And just when the 8-foot ladder is tucked safely back in the garage the real entertaining begins.
Tradition compels holiday cooks to churn out dozens of bakery quality cookies, pounds of perfect pot luck appetizers and a Norman Rockwell worthy Christmas roast. Washing dishes and soothing occasional burns comes with the territory when you are busy creating a sense of wonder and awe in others. While December can be a daunting and busy month, the effort to bring out the spirit of the season is well worth it.
Being an elf is magical work and taking a brief moment to appreciate the holiday feeling you’ve created should be an essential gift you give yourself every year. As a rule I take one evening for myself during this festive time of year. I simmer a batch of spicy mulled wine and whip up a rustic tart brimming with sweet pears and savory cheese. Knowing every bauble is in place, I happily hunker down, put my feet up and enjoy the glow from my Christmas tree while savoring a holiday treat made just for me.
Pear, Goat Cheese and Asiago Galette
Makes 6 servings
Despite featuring a scratch-made cornmeal-rosemary crust, this rustic tart comes together with ease. A traditional pie is much more complicated to make than this free-formed delight!
For the crust:
- 2 Cups flour
- ½ Cup cornmeal
- ¼ Cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 10 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
- ¼- ½ Cup ice water
For the topping:
- 2 large pears, peeled cored and sliced
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 ½ Cup shredded Asiago cheese
- ½ Cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture to combine. Dice 8 Tablespoons of the cold butter and add to the processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle in just enough water to allow the dough to come together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with cornmeal. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and roll out into a circle on a floured surface to ¼ “ thickness. Toss the sliced pears with the lemon juice and lemon zest. Sprinkle the 1 Cup of the Asiago cheese in the center of the rolled dough leaving a 2” edge uncovered. Sprinkle with ½ of the thyme leaves and arrange the pears on top of the cheese. Leave the 2” edge uncovered. Sprinkle the pears with the remaining Asiago, all of the goat cheese, the remaining thyme and the pepper. Fold the edges of the crust up over the filling and pinch to form rustic crust.
Transfer the galette to the baking sheet using a large spatula or a pizza peel. Bake the galette in the lower 1/3 of the oven for about 40 minutes (begin checking at 30 minutes) or until goat cheese is beginning to brown and crust is golden and firm.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve at once.
Rosemary Scented Mulled Wine
makes 4 servings
This pear infused spiced wine is a warming companion to a host of holiday dishes including my pear galette.
- 1 Cup sugar
- 3 strips of lemon zest
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 all spice berries
- 1 vanilla bean split
- 1-5 ½ ounce can pear nectar
- 1 bottle of Pinot Noir
- 1 clementine studded with 3 cloves
- 1 large sprig of rosemary
- 1 star anise
Pour the sugar into a 4 quart sauce pan. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon and allspice. Pour the pear nectar over the sugar. Heat the sugar mixture to a boil and cook until a syrup forms (about 10 minutes). Pour the wine into the pot and reduce heat to low. Add the clementine, rosemary and star anise. Heat through for 20 minutes, but do not boil. Lade the wine through a fine mesh strainer into coffee cups garnished with clementine slices, cinnamon sticks and clementine slices. Serve warm.