Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Asparagus Cheese Tart Ever

Ok, I've been bombed with requests for the recipe for the Asparagus Tart.  Thanks All!   This is one of those recipes that seems relatively complicated and gets easier over repeated making.  And you will be making it a lot if you love asparagus.  There are rarely leftovers, even for two the tart only lasts about two days in our house.  It is also a great breakfast dish!  If you have questions, please ask.  As I said, the more you make it, the easier it will be to make it.  A good thing!  So, here it is.

Recipe:  Asparagus and Gruyere Tart

Note:  The work in this recipe is with the pastry dough.  Of course that is what makes it so delicious!

"Black Pepper and Sour Cream Pastry Dough"

Ingredients for a 13 inch tart shell

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper - or more, if you like a peppery dough.  I use at least a teaspoon.
3/4 teaspoon of sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) of cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup of cold shortening
3 tablespoons of sour cream
3 tablespoons of ice water

Technique for making the tart shell

Blend together the flour, salt, pepper. sugar, butter and shortening with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal with the remainder in small (roughly pea sized) lumps.

Stir together the sour cream and the ice water, then stir the mixture into the dough until it is incorporated.

Gather the dough into a ball.

Lightly flour your board and flatten the dough ball into a 6 inch square.  Then roll the dough out into a roughly 18 by 6 inch rectangle and fold the dough into thirds - this is like the way you would fold a letter to put it into an envelope (when we used to write letters, that is).

Turn the dough so an open ended side is nearest you, then roll the dough out again into an 18 by 6 inch rectangle.  Fold into thirds again.

**Remember to keep dusting your board with flour.  This is a rich dough.**

Repeat rolling and folding one more time - for a total of three times; wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  We have chilled it overnight and it's fine.

Roll out the chilled dough onto a floured surface into a 15 1/2 inch round.  Transfer the dough to your tart pan (or pizza pan, I use a large tart pan).

Trim the edge enough to make it even all around and then pinch to form a 1/2 inch high, double thick side.  Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork (called "docking") and chill again until firm - at least 30 minutes.  

Note:  the leftover dough from the edges can be rolled out and cut into small squares, sprinkled with some salt and more pepper if you want (I do!).  Bake until they are slightly crispy and then take them out and let them sit for a few minutes.  They are wonderful, tasty crackers!  I am thinking about just making the dough soon so that I can make a big batch of crackers.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Take your chilled dough out of the refrigerator and line the shell with foil.
Fill the foil lined shell with pie weights or beans or rice or whatever you use.  Don't forget the foil!  I did that once - it's not pretty picking all of those beans out of that semi - cooked dough!

Bake the shell until the sides are firm, about 20 minutes. 
Remove the foil and the weights and bake about 10 minutes more, until you get a golden color.
Remove the shell from the oven and let it cool.  

While the shell is cooling, you can prepare the filling.

Ingredients for Tart Filling

3 pounds of asparagus trimmed to about 5 1/2 inches and peeled
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1 cup of heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 - 1 1/2 cups of finely grated Gruyere (depends on how cheesy you like it; we like it cheesy!)

Technique for making the filling

I put the asparagus in a large flat pan of salted, boiling water for just about 30 seconds  - until you see a nice green color.  

As soon as you have the color you want, get them IMMEDIATELY into another pan of ice water.

Drain the asparagus well and pat dry.

Whisk together the cream, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the nutmeg.
Season the mixture with freshly ground black pepper

Note:  If you use a Tart pan, I suggest that you put the pan on a cookie sheet.  Tart pans have removable bottoms and sometimes you get some seepage of the filling before it starts cooking and coming together.

Pour the custart mixture evenly into the tart shell.
Sprinkle the custard with two thirds of the grated cheese, then arrange the asparagus spears in the custart, tips out like the spokes of a wheel.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake until the custard is set - about 20 minutes.
When the custard is set, Broil the tart about 2 - 3 inches from the heat until golden.  About 1 - 2 minutes.


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