Some years ago I developed an interest in cocktails. It was triggered by an arcane email correspondence about absinth and Sazeracs leading up to our yearly skiing vacation in Haute Savoie, and quite quickly developed into a somewhat obsessive search for the perfect Sazerac in New York, at a time when few bartenders here knew what a Sazerac is, let alone how to make a good one.
My interest in Sazeracs grew into a more general curiosity for all things cocktail — mixer’s alcohols, bitters, techniques for making larger ice cubes — which happily coincided with the beginning of the cocktail trend in the city. Had I been writing then, cocktails would have featured prominently.
These days I drink mostly wine, except when my cocktail-fiend friend and then fellow-bar-stalker comes over for dinner, a bottle of gin or good rye in tow; I don’t have cocktail recipes jotted down on every second page of my little black notebook; and my cocktail bar recommendations would probably have a taste of five years ago. But I do still own a ludicrous number of partially full liquor bottles.
This recipe is part of my “Schindler book” collection. Judging by its position in the book, which I copied in chronological order, I found it when I was about twenty. Unfortunately I can’t remember its exact origin, though I’m pretty sure I wrote it down after a vacation in France in the Vercors close to Grenoble, the region of walnuts and Chartreuse.
Unsweetened pie crust
250 g flour
125 g butter plus a little more to butter the pan
3/4 cup (200 g) crème fraîche
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 generous cups (200 g) shelled walnuts
1 1/2 liquid ounces Chartreuse
The pie crust
Prepare the pie crust at least 1 hour in advance, as it needs to rest.
Place the flour in a large bowl, cut the cold butter into 1-inch pieces and work it with the fingertips into the flour, to obtain the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add drops of cold water, little by little, until the dough sticks and can be shaped into a ball.
Cover the ball of dough with a damp cloth and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and up to one day.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes beforehand so it has time to soften at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and generously butter a 12 inch (30 cm) pie pan.
To roll out the dough, lightly dust a clean, flat surface with flour and roll out the dough into a circle until it is 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thin.**To prevent the dough from sticking to the the floured surface, turn it at the beginning then lift it regularly, all the while adding a little flour on either side and on the rolling pin.**
To transfer the dough to the pie pan, gently fold it in half once, then fold it in half again, and carefully place the folded dough in the buttered pie pan, positioning the angle in the center. Unfold, pressing gently onto the pan and sides, and cut off excess dough from the edges.
Bake the pie crust blind for 15 minutes. **When baking blind either poke a bunch of small wholes into the crust with a fork, or use dried beans or ceramic baking weights on the crust to prevent it from rising.**
Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).
In a large bowl mix the crème fraîche and sugar, add the walnuts and the Chartreuse. Pour the mixture into the blind-baked crust.
Place the tarte in the oven on a larger baking sheet or aluminum foil, as the filling is likely to bubble over. Bake for 20 minutes.
Let the pie cool before eating. It becomes sticky and brittle, reminiscent of baklava. Mmmm!