Do-Sa-Do!

Well a do-sa-do and to and fro to you Cafe’ friends!  We’re do-sa-do-ing at the Susitna Cafe’ today in celebration of our recent viewing of Charles M. Russell’s masterworks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH).

We’ve been a fan of Charles M. Russell’s artistry and humour for many, many years here at the Cafe’.  In fact, one summer, “R” and I road-tripped all the way to the boonies of Montana to visit the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.  While there, we spent hours reading and viewing Charles M. Russell’s many beautifully illustrated letters.

Afterwards, I searched far and wide for a copy of his book “Good Medicine, The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell”.  Since the book was published in 1930, it wasn’t easy finding a copy.  But I did find a copy, and to this day we treasure it.

So, I’m sure you can guess that when we were invited to a preview of  “The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture” at the MFAH, we got there as fast as we could!

Oh my, it was great fun!  There was a really nice reception with tasty appetizers like assorted cheese and grapes…

Texas size strawberries and brie cheese…

Oh, and did I tell you there was cheese (my favorite :o)?  The exhibit was really wonderful too!

I just love Charles M. Russell’s sense of light, don’t you?

When the Land Belonged to God, 1914 oil on canvas (Courtesty of Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana)

This particular painting, When the Land Belonged to God, rarely travels from the Montana Historical Society, so we consider it a real treat to have viewed it in person.  In fact, this painting  just made all the visitors feel like dancing.  So, we did!

Seems like everyone just started do-sa-do-ing…

And to and fro-ing…

There were some singing cowboys too…

Hey, how about if you join us at the Cafe’ for a little dancin’ and cookin’?  What?  You don’t know how to cowboy dance?  No problem, just watch this video and start kicking your legs around.

Next, just start cookin’.  Let’s make Charles M. Russell proud!

Susitna Cafe’ Do-Sa-Do Pecan Tart

Makes two (2) 11 inch tarts.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Shortbread Crust*

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup cane sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then set aside.  Next, cream the butter and sugar together with your electric mixer at medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Add the pure vanilla extract.

Now begin adding the dry ingredients into the batter at low speed and do so until all ingredients are combined.  The dough will be fluffy and sticky.  Pour the dough into two (2) 11 inch ungreased tart pans.  Press the dough into the pans leaving a 1/2 inch wide thick crust on the edge.  The crust in the center section of the pan should thinner than the edge crust to allow room for the pecan filling.  You may wish to flour your hands to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands while you are working the crust in the tart pan.

Bake the tarts for 15 minutes.  The crust should be “set” but not brown.  Allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the pecan filling.

Pecan Filling*

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/8 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla in the pecan filling)

1 pound whole pecans

1 cup Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar and orange zest in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat to melt the butter, and stir to combine all ingredients.  Raise the heat to medium high and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool for a minute.  Meanwhile, sprinkle 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips into the each of the two (2) cooled tart crusts.

Next add the heavy cream and whole pecans to the warm filling.  Stir to combine.  Pour 1/2 of the pecan filling into each of the two (2) tart crusts.  Spread the filling evenly in the well of the crust.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Meanwhile, this is a good time for you to practice do-sa-do-ing while the tarts are allowed to cool to room temperature.

Cut the tart into pie wedges.  Serve either at room temperature or after refrigerating until cold.  Store remaining tart (if any) in the refrigerator.

Cook’s Notes:   This recipe is adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” Pecan Squares recipe.  Although the Pecan Squares are absolutely delicious in the original recipe, I modified the recipe to serve as a tart containing a chocolate layer between the shortbread and pecan filling.  In addition, I’ve placed more emphasis on the orange (vs. lemon) flavoring in the filling simply because we like the combination of orange and chocolate together.  We hope you do too!

Note that if the dough in the well rises too much during the initial baking, you may scoop out any excess with a spoon.  This will ensure that you have enough room in the center for the pecan filling.

Traveler’s Note:  The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)’s exhibit, The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture,  is on view through August 29, 2010.

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Filed under June 2010

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