50 Women Game Changers in Food: Patricia Wells (Week 11)

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In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making it’s way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week eleven brings us to Patricia Wells… the American teaching the French how to cook.

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Patricia Wells (November 5 1946 – Present). There isn’t much information about her life online, other than the information she provides on her website and the background information given in articles about her. In 1964, she earned a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and for a period of time she worked as an art critic. In 1980, she and her husband Walter moved from New York to Paris, for what was supposed to be a brief stay. At the end of their time in Paris, they had fallen in love with French food & culture, and purchased a farmhouse in Provence; and I can only imagine how amazing her home in Provence is. She and her husband are devoted to growing as much as they can, and grow everything from grapes to make wine, to olives, to make olive oil.

Her collection of printed works is impressive. She’s published fourteen books, the “New Food Lovers Guide to Paris” App, and was one of the first women food critics in France.

I was trying to avoid buying another cookbook, and the local library didn’t have any of her books available (which is ridiculous, since she’s written 14…), so I turned to the internet. The two recipes that popped up the most for her was a cauliflower gratin and a lemon tart. I’m not a huge cauliflower fan, so I went with the tart. And I’m really, really glad I did.

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Thanks to the perfect apple tart I made for week two (still my favorite recipe from this project to date), I was no longer terrified about making the pastry dough from scratch. I was nervous about the filling setting properly, and I was worried about whether or not Graham would eat it (he’s not the biggest lemon fan). Luckily the filling was perfect, and Graham loved it. Less than 30 minutes after finishing this, Graham called and asked if I wanted to have dinner with friends of ours, and if I wanted to bring a dessert. I thought that was pretty awesome timing. So, I brought the tart, and a bowl of homemade whipped cream and everyone enjoyed it. I’d love to use this recipe as a base for different citrus juices. I’m thinking of a blood orange & key lime tarts…
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Patricia Wells’ Lemon Tart
(Recipe found here.)

Ingredients:

For the Pastry

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Filling

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 tablespoons
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

Directions:

For the Pastry

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter, vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Gradually stir in the flour to form a smooth, soft dough. Place the dough in the center of the prepared pan. Using your fingers, evenly press the dough along the bottom and up the sides of the pan; it will be quite thin.
  3. Bake the shell in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or just until the dough is firm and lightly browned. Let cool completely before filling. Do not remove from the pan.

For the Filling

  1. In the top of a double boiler set over but not touching simmering water, combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk frequently until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the butter, piece by piece, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next. Add the grated zest and lemon juice and whisk frequently until the mixture is thick and the first bubbles appear, about 10 minutes longer; do not let boil.
  3. Pour the filling into the Lemon Pastry Shell. Smooth the top with a spatula. Set the tart aside at room temperature until the filling firms up, about 30 minutes, before unmolding and serving.

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