Hector Manuel Sanchez
This is the dessert you cook when you want to make a big impression. Everything about it--from the ginger kick in the crust to the sweet earthiness of the beets in the filling to the rich goat cheese in the topping--comes together in beautiful harmony. Be sure to use an 11-inch tart pan to accommodate the filling; a 10-inch pie plate will work in a pinch. Look for buttermilk powder on the baking aisle or with the powdered milk.
Serves 16 (serving size: 1 pie slice and about 2 tsp. cream)
1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
2. Prepare the crust: Whisk together cookie crumbs, buttermilk powder, walnuts, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, ginger, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; stir to combine. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake at 275°F until slightly browned and toasty, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating pan halfway (on same rack) after 9 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.
3. Prepare the filling: Combine 3 tablespoons warm water and gelatin in a small bowl; let stand until ready to use. In a medium saucepan, bring port to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in half-and-half and beets. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beets are tender when tested with a fork, about 25 minutes. (Mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out when blended.) Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture, and stir until gelatin melts and mixture is completely combined.
4. Transfer beet mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender, and place a clean towel over opening in lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids.
5. Whisk together buttermilk, yolks, 9 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture begins to thicken, about 4 minutes. Add beet mixture to pan; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla to pan, and whisk until butter melts. Transfer filling to cooled crust, smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Cover and chill 12 hours. Remove sides of pan; cut into 16 slices.
6. Prepare the topping: Beat cream, powdered sugar, honey, orange zest, and goat cheese with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Serve with pie.