I loves my booze. Funny thing, since I don’t drink. I’m one of those unfortunate Asians who lacks the necessary chemistry to break down alcohol. A few bouts of heavy drinking in college gave me crippling back pain, lobster complexion, and no sense of euphoria whatsoever. That’s a drag when you want not only to have an excusable reason to talk to parking meters, but to enjoy it, to learn from it, to be enlightened by it. Drunkenness is half the point of college; I spent those four years distressingly sober.
The pleasure I derive from alcohol now stems purely from its geekiness. Alcohol is so . . . so . . . complicated. Learning wines alone can occupy a lifetime. As a result, I own five cookbooks and reference books on wine alone. My liqueur collection may weigh more than an obese adolescent boy. Generous gifts from family friends to my father over the years means that even a few luxury items grace my cabinet, such as Rémy Martin XO Spécial Cognac and 18-year-old Scotch. What does a girl who doesn’t drink do with this all this alcohol?
Eat it. One tablespoon at a time.
Wines, fortified wines, and beers often go into my sauces and stews and feature heavily in my braising and poaching. But my favorite boozy dishes are sweets. A tablespoon of Frangelico mixed with vanilla yogurt and raspberries intoxicates me yet allows me to drive. Cream whipped with Chambord turns my angel food devilish. My favorite dessert combines the sinful creamy pleasures of cheesecake with the bracing orange Grand Marnier (pictured). While I can’t say that desserts like this have helped me lose weight, they definitely help keep me sane trying.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can use all cream cheese for a rich mild result, ricotta for a lighter result, or yogurt cheese for a tangy richness that works perfectly with the citrus flavor. You won’t believe that the yogurt version is actually light . . . er. And something about wide flat tart slices promises to fill you up in a way that tall slender cheesecake slices fail to do. Also, unlike cheesecake, the shallow depth of this tart means no cracking problems. That’s a big bonus if you, unlike me, bake drunk.
GRAND MARNIER ORANGE TART RECIPE
Adapted from the wonderful Fine Cooking magazine.
· 1 cup finely ground crisp dry vanilla cookies, like Nilla Wafers (35 cookies)
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 3 tablespoons butter, melted
1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Spritz the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray or lightly grease, then line the bottom with parchment paper. This step is optional but helps you remove the tart in one piece later.
3) Mix the crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. I like to use a metal measuring cup to flatten the crumbs and press them against the sides.
4) Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.
· 1 1/2 cups yogurt cheese, at room temperature (see directions below)
OR 1 1/2 cups ricotta, at room temperature
OR 1 1/2 cups cream or Neufchâtel cheese, at room temperature
OR any combination of the above cheeses, at room temperature
· 4 ounces (1/2 box) cream or Neufchâtel cheese, at room temperature
· 3/4 cup sugar
· 1 tbsp cornstarch
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 large egg
· 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
· 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Beat cheeses in a bowl for several minutes until smooth. Add sugar, cornstarch, and salt and continue beating until well blended. Mix in egg, zest, and liqueur. Scrape the filling into the crust and spread the filling evenly.
3) Bake on the middle rack until the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is nudged, 30-35 minutes. Be careful not to overbake, but don’t worry too much if you slightly underbake, you’ll just get a more creamy result.
4) Let cool completely on a rack. Refrigerate the tart in the pan until firm. Remove tart from pan, slide a knife between the parchment and the pan bottom, and remove the tart to a serving plate. Slice and serve.
Yogurt cheese: To make yogurt cheese (if you don’t have a nifty yogurt cheese maker), line a colander or sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and pour in 3 cups of plain yogurt. Place the colander over a bowl in the fridge. Twelve to 24 hours later you should have 1 1/2 cups of yogurt cheese. This may not work if your yogurt has been heavily fortified with gelatin, although in my experience, moderate amounts of pectin don’t seem to cause problems. Try to either make your own yogurt or buy a yogurt that is gelatin and pectin free.
- Food whores d’œuvre recs
- How to make yogurt, from the great Indian food blog Mahanandi.
- Another way to make yogurt from the charming 101 cookbooks.
- Tip du jour
- Yogurt or yogurt cheese make outstanding partial or sometimes even full replacements for sour cream or cream cheese in any recipe where the tanginess will not detract from the flavor. Strongly flavored dips and tart citrus desserts take especially well to yogurt cheese substitution.