Confluence. When it all flows together.
You see, this humble food blog is about to become a one-year-old. I didn’t “go live” until March 2nd of last year, but there was a gestation period. I started writing it because people kept telling me, after I’d served them something from my kitchen, you should write these recipes down somewhere. And after a period of back-and-forth pish-toshing, I decided I’d do just that. And I suppose having helped build this internet thingy over the last twenty years or so influenced me to do it online and in public. I don’t know what I was thinking.
But there you go.
The question in my mind now, however, is why am I still doing this? I’m just some guy who cooks. It’s fun and I’m pretty good at it. But I could say that about watching Netflix, playing old songs on an old guitar, and reading science fiction novels too.
Cooks cook to nurture people.
Designing and building the systems behind today’s global computing infrastructure, while gratifying enough for a while, didn’t let me make people smile. Sure, I helped them make travel reservations or monitor rooms of servers in the cloud, but no real smiling.
Set that aside.
Last year, on the aforementioned Netflix, I caught I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and it made me smile a lot. It gave us joy. My wife and I binged one episode after the other and were admittedly a bit sad when it was over. (I’m not a television executive but I think that reaction might have been what they were shooting for.)
Before the show, however, I didn’t know Phil Rosenthal from The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. There but for the grace of Google, ah, Everybody Loves Raymond, that was good, we liked that. Not exactly a food-lover’s testimonial but hey, this looks like fun, so we watched anyway, benefit of the doubt and all.
And then this year, just a couple of weeks ago, season two appeared. Albeit with a new name, Somebody Feed Phil. And we had a second helping of joy. Huzzah!
To nurture people by cooking.
To make people happy.
To give joy.
How could you not want a part of that?
So, this post is my open thank you letter to Phil Rosenthal.
Lisbon, Portugal. Pastéis de Nata.
It’s a Portuguese custard tart. And it’s life-changing good.
Everything on the show looked good. Okay, not the insect stuff, but everything else. I’m not judging, but been there, done that.
Phil had these twice. He made a point of it. A not so subtle hint, eh?
And let me tell you this up front: on the show, the gentleman behind the counter pointed out that pastéis is the plural, and pastel is the singular. Because somebody somewhere, given the choice, only ate one of these marvelous gems.
Given that a spur-of-the-moment trip to Lisbon was impossible, the next morning I hit the Suppertime Blues Kitchen with a sense of urgency. Which was only frustrating because I learned these take about half a day to make. But round up the ingredients, get out the camera and…cloudy, rainy day, no good light. Should I wait for a sunny day? Ha! I don’t think so. (Which is my way of apologizing for my impatience and so-so pictures.)
You know me, once a systems analyst always a systems analyst, data gathering comes first. I read about a hundred recipes for these tarts. Most were variations on a theme so I picked out the commonalities. For some reason, a lot of people add a little bit to a lotta bit of lemon and lemon zest. I put those in the discard pile for now.
What I found is that most people are making David Leite’s recipe on his Leite’s Culinaria site. Having never had the original, I could not fathom a justification to reinvent the wheel and try to adapt this. So, I did what the smart cook would do and just made David’s version.
First the crust. Lots of butter. Everything in a stand mixer to start. Then onto a floured surface. Let it rest.
Roll it out. Seal it in plastic wrap again. Into the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Back out, cut into pieces. Line a pan, gently shaping the tart shells. (My kingdom for a set of tart molds! Next time.)
Now the filling. On the stove, couple of pans, lots of whisking.
Fill the tarts, bake, cool, dust with sugar and cinnamon.
I took my time, I was careful, and I’ll admit it wasn’t the easiest pastry I’ve ever made. But it turned out amazing.
How good are these really?
One person who tried them had to wipe a tear away after tasting them. Almost everybody closes their eyes and smiles after biting into one.
They’re that good.
Of course, I had to make them again a day later. My family of taste testers made them disappear plus they were so good I was sharing them with every passerby, friend, and stranger.
And they were even better the second time. A bit flakier maybe.
I can tell you this: practice. On some recipes it really helps and this is one of those. The road to Carnegie Hall and great Pastéis de Nata might be one and the same.
Let’s add this up.
We got to eat Pastéis de Nata.
We got to binge-watch Phil. Twice.
I got to nurture people by cooking.
All I can say is thank you, Phil Rosenthal.
Oh, and I can share our mmmMMMMmmm faces.