Pear Cranberry Crostata

Pear Cranberry Crostata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Training Day Dinner”

The Set-up: Ina and Chef Joe Realmuto have offered to help make dinner for the East Hampton volunteer firefighters.

The Menu: Grilled Bread with Prosciutto, TownLine BBQ Pork Ribs, Sandy’s Potato Salad, Pear and Cranberry Crostata

0:42 – Ina is starting us off with Pear and Cranberry Crostata which she chose because it’s served room temperature, can be easily transported and is “absolutely delicious.” Good call on all three.

1:36 – I kind of assumed that crostata was basically a flatter version of a pie, but I notice that Ina isn’t putting any spices in with the diced pears, just a little orange zest.

2:05 – Pastry time, this recipe is a little different than the one she recommended for pie – it’s butter only, no vegetable shortening – and seems a bit softer.

3:28 – A quick intro to the East Hampton Volunteer Fire Department (est. 1975), so we know why this dinner is so important.

4:41 – Back with Ina to make the topping for the crostata – cinnamon, butter, allspice, sugar – and I ask myself, “How bad could that be?”

5:52 – These look seriously delicious and I can tell already that this is the recipe I want to make.

6:39 – I’m watching Ina intently as she finishes the final assembly – especially the crust folding technique – I think this maybe where the magic happens.

7:57 – Of course she makes it look so simple, but there must be a trick, right? I’m noticing no egg wash either which seems standard for getting golden brown pastry…

10:14 – Ina has rolled up to the EHVFD in an emergency vehicle of her own – emergency dessert.

11:23 – We get a little overview of the preparations underway, buffet tables, grill assembly, and Ina’s partner in crime: Chef Joe Realmuto.

12:45 – Ina heads upstairs to cook with Sandy, mastermind of Sandy’s Potato Salad, and Ina is put to work chopping hard boiled eggs.

13:16 – Sandy tells Ina that this is an old fashioned Southern recipe from her family tradition and I believe it – any mayonnaise based salad that also calls for pickle relish has got to be straight off the picnic table.

14:35 – Ina and Sandy have a heart to heart about how cooking is only kind of a science, since even the same ingredients vary in flavor. True story, sometimes you do everything the same and it just turns out differently!

15:28 – Taste test time and Ina approves of this “really old fashioned potato salad.”

20:34 – We’re outside at the giant grills set up for Chef Realmuto’s ribs which start with a dry rub of paprika, salt, sugar, ground mustard, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Mike is a huge barbecue aficionado I wonder if he would approve of this recipe?

21:53 – Step Two of the process involves a “Texas mop”, a term I’ve never heard before, and it looks like a miniature version of a rope mop used for floors, except this one is used to baste the ribs every half hour.

22:15 – A little research tells me that “Texas mop” could also be referring to the basting sauce itself.

23:47 – Joe apparently made these ribs in a smoker at his restaurant and is just using the grill to re-heat. I’m relieved to hear that my fellow Yankees haven’t confused “grilling” with “barbecue.”

26:36 – Over to Ina who is making Grilled Bread with Prosciutto as an appetizer while Joe sets up giant platters of ribs.

27:50 – Yum. Ina is used smoked mozzarella on top of the prosciutto – I love smoked cheeses. My stomach is growling.

28:21 – Training is over and the buffet table is laden with all sorts of salads including Sandy’s Potato Salad, of course.

29:32 – The crostata is served and the cooking team celebrates with a round of high-fives!

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Final Thoughts:
I Googled “crostata” and “galette” - turns out they’re the same thing in different languages (Italian and French.) Cue the “The More You Know” star…

I feel like crostatas might really be my jam. #sorrynotsorry in advance for the influx of crostata recipes I’ll be posting.

I love how involved Ina is with her local community – I swear she’s always volunteering or donating her time.

Lessons Learned:
Dough – I’m trying to reach some level of comfort with pie crust and after my last attempt with Deep Dish Apple Pie where the dough was too dry I was hyperaware of adding enough water. I think I actually overdid it since the result was pretty sticky, but it seemed a little more forgiving once a fair amount of additional flour was incorporated during the rolling out process. I noticed that because the dough was a little soft that my crostata edges were prone to falling down, but I have confidence that one of these days I’ll get it right!

Fruit – The original recipe called for “big chunks” of pear, but the ones I was had were a little under-ripe and since I was making mini versions I cut them a little smaller. This ended up being just perfect – the fruit was definitely cooked, but still firm pieces. I’d love to try this recipe again with fresh cranberries since the dried ones ended up a little dark and I don’t know how much of the flavor came through. I also forgot the orange zest, but it didn’t seem to matter much.

Assembly – I cut this recipe in half and then made three mini crostatas instead of one medium sized one. All the proportions still worked perfectly and as I was finishing the assembly process I decided to brush them with egg wash and sprinkle a little turbinado sugar – all good choices that I’d recommend!

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, assuming you have a medium sized food processor. I also used a large cutting board, chef’s knife, vegetable (in this case fruit) peeler, rolling pin, dry & liquid measuring cups, measuring spoons, a baking sheet, and a medium bowl. I needed a small bowl and a pastry brush for the egg wash; plastic wrap and parchment paper rounded out the “kit.”

The Verdict:
I put these mini Pear and Cranberry Crostatas out as a mid-afternoon snack for some friends and when it was time to go there was just one lonely quarter leftover. Shockingly, it took zero convincing to get someone to help out with that last piece. I personally love the sweetness of the pears with the tart cranberries and how the crust gets beautifully crisp; which means these can be eaten “politely” with a fork or just picked right up like a slice of pizza. I also have full leave from Mike to make these anytime. Color me a crostata convert.

Pear Cranberry Crostata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pear Cranberry Crostata | Image: Laura Messersmith