Riffs are a controversial subject on Thanksgiving. Some prefer the annual eating of the world’s frumpiest bird to be a consistent reprisal of favorite sides and iconic pies. Others, fatigued by the repetitiveness of the meal, look forward to introducing something new, or at the very least, slightly different to the menu. Safeguarding tradition might seem like the appropriate thing to do, but I feel it’s time to abandon the Norman Rockwell ideal and accept that the riffs belong at the Thanksgiving table because Thanksgiving is a holiday ruled by chaos.
In years past, my rebellion has taken the shape of stuffing made with bagels instead of bread, and spicy cranberry jello laced with Scotch bonnets. This year my rebellion will come in the form of a pistachio tart. Specifically, Barbara Bryant and Georgeanne Brennan’s Pistachio Nut Tart from their new cookbook, Pistachio.
A pistachio tart is hardly scandalous (actually, it’s exceptionally lovely), but it’s an apt dessert for gently subverting Thanksgiving tradition, especially since this one is so evocative of pecan pie. For their tart, Bryant and Brennan follow the pecan pie template with a combination of pastry, lightly toasted nuts, and a buttery brown sugar suspension. But whereas pecan pie filling can get a little dense and treacly, this tart shows restraint, without sacrificing any flavor. Think of it as pecan pie’s close family relative—who perhaps moved to the big city and got an MFA degree.
The tart will easily appeal to anyone who loves pistachios (or anyone who’s allergic to pecans or the corn syrup typically used in pecan pies), but it’s also incredibly simple to make. The press-in crust doesn’t require any rolling or chilling, and once it’s made, all that’s left is to hand-mix the filling, pour it into the crust, and bake for just under an hour.
Apart from the pistachios themselves, the only other luxury suggested in this recipe is a vanilla bean, but subbing in a dash of extract instead is easy enough. The tart itself has the same, caramelized nuttiness flavor profile as pecan pie, but using brown sugar instead of Karo syrup, it’s less of a viscous extravagance, and more a low-key accompaniment that’ll graciously share room on the plate with a slice of pumpkin or apple pie.
It’s subtle and innocuous, but for a holiday in which passive-aggressive behavior rules, the smallest of things can give your extended family something to talk about on the car ride home. Thankfully, this tart, with flavors of Turkish baklava, has the power to win over hardened hearts, and it might even force a begrudged smile from a reluctant taster. This year’s riff always has a shot at becoming next year’s classic.
Pistachio Nut TartBarbara BryantGeorgeanne Brennan
Originally Appeared on Epicurious
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