Pecan Caramel Tart with Sea Salt Crunch

Here’s the thing about being a reformed control freak: no one believes you. You hardly believe you, because it is like being an alcoholic: you always still WANT to be a control freak, you just can’t let yourself anymore.

So it is coming on Thanksgiving, and you are getting home from a big overseas trip two days before. Your husband says, “Then I am making a deep fried turkey” and you say, in that low quiet voice that tells him you mean business, “You can make your fried turkey if you want, but we are also making a proper roast turkey. It Is Thanksgiving.”

He knows you mean it, and he knows there will be two turkeys. Fine. Lots of take-home for everyone. Done. Thanksgiving Day is back under control.


Something comes up and someone wants it to be in another state.




Nothing matters more than us being together, so I won’t cook for Thanksgiving and we will eat out, but at least we will all be together because that is what I really care about.


Now even the fried turkey sounds dandy.


Okay. Okay.

I am fine.

So we will have Thanksgiving not at a house but at an “out” place with servers and seatings. And we won’t have my mother’s gravlax which makes me cry anyway, or my husband’s fried turkey which annoys me. But I think I have been practicing to not be a control freak for long enough that I can handle not cooking the most important holiday of the year. Because I will be with my sisters and my Dad and my kids and two great guys named David and my incredible, interesting, cool nieces and nephew.

And sometimes, it isn’t all about the food.

But I have to make my roast turkey and my lovely light souffléd sweet potatoes topped with crunchy streusel because it is Thanksgiving.

No I don’t.

I can just make my pecan tart. And maybe Ebo can make those Brussels sprouts I love and I’ll make the green beans with glazed onions my sisters like, and maybe we will just have to buy our own bottle of the Puligny-Montrachet that my Dad brings every year. I’ll give all the cooking we do to the kids to take back to their apartments (but we’ll keep the bottle for the two of us).

We’ll drive back home late Thanksgiving night, and I will doze in the car to the sweet sound of the three of them talking. The next morning my Zak and Rachel will wake up a little late and shuffle downstairs in their pajamas and scrunchy messed up hair, and Ebo will make them crepes and I will send them home as late as I possibly can, their arms growing long under the weight of all that take-home.

And as I stand in the driveway and watch them leave, the warmth of the weekend will hold me still, quiet amidst the crackling leaves. My husband will put his arm on my shoulder and we will stand in silence for just a moment before we go back inside.

The Thanksgiving Control Freak has been slain.

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Pecan Caramel Tart with Sea Salt Crunch


1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in bits

3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

(scant) 4 tablespoons ice water


4 cups pecans (about 14 ounces), coarsely chopped

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup honey

¾ cup (12 tablespoons, or 6 ounces) butter, cut in bits

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon Wellfleet Sea Salt (or other coarse sea salt)


  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl; cut the butter and shortening in with a pastry blender or forks until the mixture is in coarse crumbs. Add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the water; stir with a fork until incorporated. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of water one at a time, stirring with a fork until a loose dough begins to form. Knead the dough once or twice until it comes together; press it into a 4-5-inch disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or for several days).
  2. Bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch diameter circle. Carefully place it in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the edges and prick the bottom in several places with a fork. Freeze 20 minutes.
  3. Cover the crust loosely with foil and add a layer of pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15 minutes; remove the foil and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
  4. To make the filling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts on a baking sheet pan and toast until lightly fragrant and somewhat more deeply colored, about 7-9 minutes.
  5. Combine the sugar, honey, butter and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pecans; pour the filling into the crust. Bake 25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly, thickened and deeply colored. Immediately sprinkle with coarse sea salt and allow to cool fully before cutting into wedges to serve.

Serves 8 – 10




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