Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Heart Savory Tarts: Leek and Onion

I heart savory tarts!  They're easy to make, impressive to look at, are just a little unusual and surprising, and there are endless variations.

There are a few general tips for easy savory tarts.  First, you need a tart pan.  A nice 9" metal tart pan, (no need for non stick), with ridged sides and a removable bottom.  They are pretty cheap (around $10) and you will use it all the time once you have one.  Second, you can put just about anything in there, but you will need something to bind it together.  I usually mix a single egg with some cream.  You can make it more eggy and quiche-like if you want, but as I don't like eggs, I keep it subtle.

First, the crust:

  • You can use pie crust if you want (store-bought if you must), but I prefer to use puff pastry (which you can also buy, if you must).  It's a lot easier to make than you think, as well much more impressive and fun-looking.  I found a great recipe for whole wheat puff pastry, which is basically like normal, but with half whole wheat that gives it a nice, rich flavor.  I just make a "blitz" puff pastry which involves chunks of butter rather than layers, making it a bit quicker.  This is perfect for a tart crust, because you don't need it quite as puffy.
  • Cut your crust a good 1 1/2" larger than the bottom of your tart pan.  You need some for the vertical side and some to fold over around the top.
  • To put the dough in the tart pan, do not simply drape the circle across the top and then stretch it down into the corners.  You want to stretch it as little as possible at this point.  Pick it up like a pouch, with the sides gathered in the middle.  Touch it down in the center and gradually release it towards the outside of the pan.  Gently push it down into the corners.  It's ok if you need to fold it along the walls-- if there is excess, you can trim it, or you can just press it in.  After the dough is pressed in along the bottom and corner, let the excess drape over the side.  Gently roll it inward and press the edge in enough to hold it down.  With a single finger, gently press the dough into each groove of the pan.
Now the filling (the easy part!):
  • Slice one large sweet onion (I like keeping it in circles) and one large leek (up to the pale green part). 
  • Sautee in a pan on medium-low heat with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and some herbs de provence.
  • While the leeks and onions are cooking, mash up about 4 oz. plain fresh goat cheese.  You can add about 1 tbsp heavy cream to make it a little smoother.  Spread this in the bottom of the tart.
  • Once the leeks and onions are soft and slightly translucent (but not caramelized), transfer them to the tart pan on top of the goat cheese.
  • Whisk one egg with an equal part heavy cream.  Pour this evenly into the tart.
  • Optional: top the tart with some decorative bits of leftover puff pastry.  You can brush them with some egg wash (it makes them shinier), but it's not absolutely necessary.  If you make cuts in the decorative dough pieces, make them after egg washing.
  • Bake in the oven heated to 425 for about 30 min.  Check on it periodically to make sure it's not browning too fast.  The crust will be golden when it's ready.
This makes a lovely centerpiece to a brunch or lunch.  Here I served it with some strawberries, grapes, gigandes, green olives, and a cheese plate.  It would also be lovely with a salad (perhaps some mache with roasted red grapes, toasted walnuts, and a light vinagrette).  Any way you serve it, it's delicious!

- Rori

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