In Which the Parents Come for Dinner

My parents hadn’t seen the apartment since we’d moved in, or, in the case of my mother, since before we’d moved in, so The Boy and I decided to have them and my little brother over to celebrate a sort of mini-Christmas (basically, my family gave their presents to The Boy and he gave his to them). This, of course, required me to finally get my act together and clean the whole place up. Nothing like guests to make you stop living in squalor, right?

Anyway, some people had drunk a little too much at their office party the evening before, so I did the majority of the cooking. The cleaning was a joint effort.

The menu?

Thai Lime & Chili Cashews (Trader Joe’s – The Boy’s favorite)
Baked Apricot-Cranberry Brie & Baguette (Brie from Mom, par-baked baguette from TJ’s)
Stuffed Chicken Parmesan with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce (The MasterChef Cookbook)
Peter Michael Le Moulin Rouge 2005 Pinot Noir (brought by Dad)
(Key) Lime Cream Tart (Sophistimom)

I started out making the lime cream tart, since it needed to set in the fridge at various steps. The recipe said to do the crust first, but I started with the lime curd since it needed to set for a couple of hours. Now, I don’t have a stand mixer yet, so I dumped the butter and sugar into a big bowl and zested in those limes.

Lime zest and butter.

That’s five limes right there.

I did manage to zest my thumb in the process (don’t worry, the tart stayed blood-free). I moved on to cooking the lime curd, resisted eating all of it with a spoon, and put it in the fridge to thicken.

Lime curd cooking.

Mmm…tart deliciousness.

For the rest of the afternoon, I alternated between cleaning, continuing the lime tart, and preparing to cook the Chicken Parmesan, which needed to be finished right before dinner.

Halved cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes ready for roasting!

Mise-en-place for chicken parmesan.

My mise-en-place.

The parents arrived, the brie and nuts were served, presents were opened, and I cooked. The apartment has a semi-open kitchen with a sort of breakfast bar opening onto the living area, which I love because it means I can cook and still yell things over into the conversation.

Stuffed chicken parmesan breasts cooking.

Cooking the stuffed chicken breasts.

Dinner was yummy – I was worried a bit about throwing the chicken onto basically plain pasta (OK, butter-coated, but basically plain), but it was moist and tasty and, well, filling things with melty mozzarella never hurt anyone.

Stuffed Chicken Parmesan with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

See that melty mozzarella?

Of course, being a sweet-toothed lady myself, my favorite part of the meal was dessert – the amazing and very simple lime cream tart (technically called key lime, but I didn’t have any key limes and I didn’t really want to deal with their tininess anyway). I may or may not be eating a big piece for breakfast while I’m writing this. Which means of course I am not. Right?

Key Lime Cream Tart

Yum yum yum.

Key Lime Cream Tart
Adapted from http://www.sophistimom.com.

I loved loved loved this dessert, which was full of tart lime flavor and very creamy. My only issue was that I used a glass pie pan, and the dough stuck to it – a tart pan would probably yield better results, but if you plan to remove the tart I might suggesting buttering your vessel first. I also didn’t strain the filling, leaving it green-flecked with zest. For a smoother color, you could strain, but mine still tasted and felt delicious.

For the crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the filling:
zest of 4-5 limes
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
juice of 5 limes (1/2-3/4 cup)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer), cream together butter, salt and sugar until smooth. Slowly add in flour and mix until just combined. Mix dough by hand to be sure all ingredients are distributed evenly.

2. Press dough in the bottom and up the sides of a 9 or 10 inch tart pan, so the dough is about 1/4 thick. Reserve any extra dough for another use (it can be frozen). Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough several times. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

3. Clean the mixer bowl and paddle attachment, and then cream together zest, butter, and sugar.  Incorporate eggs one at a time and mix until smooth.  Add in lime juice and salt.  Mixture will be curdled.

4.  Pour mixture into a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes.  Lime curd will come together and thicken.  When it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, remove from heat.  Allow to cool (strain if desired).  Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2-3 hours or longer.

5. In a small bowl, beat heavy cream with the confectioner’s sugar and extracts until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the chilled lime curd. Spread into the tart shell and chill for 3-4 hours.

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