WITH AN ENTIRE EXTRA DAY in the weekend, Memorial Day seemed like a good morning to spend some quality time fixing brunch. I had been eyeing the recipe for a savory spring vegetable and goat cheese tart in the May 2012 Bon Appetit since I first leafed through the issue, and thought, what better way to spend an hour or two in the kitchen?
Three hours and fifteen minutes later, I had a beautiful tart cooling on a wire rack. I use the past tense, because it’s gone. Deliciously, wholeheartedly, gone.
To be fair, the extra time was my fault. Bon Appetit was trying to be helpful when it suggested store-bought pie pastry for the crust. But, if you’re going to go all in, you go all in. And I’m of the firm opinion that, while there are many times in life that it should be the first step, a food blog article should never begin, “Take the store-bought pastry and follow the instructions on the box.”
On that note, it turns out, pie pastry is incredibly simple to make. With four simple ingredients (plus ice water), homemade pie pastry is… an hour and forty five minutes away. It’s not particularly work-intensive. But plan ahead.
BUTTERY PIE CRUST, from Bon Appetit, May 2012
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the butter, and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
Add 1/4 cup ice water and work into the mixture until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for approximately one hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough to a 12 inch circle and transfer to a 10 inch diameter tart pan. Press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan and trim excess dough. Prick all over the bottom of the crust with a fork and chill again for 20 minutes.
Line the inside of the crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides are set, then remove the foil/parchment paper and beans/weights and bake until bottom is set and a light golden color, approximately 18-20 minutes depending on your oven. Cool on a wire rack.
I initially found the concept of pie weights a bit boggling. It’s pastry crust, and it will eventually be laden with lots of delicious contents to keep it down. But it turns out, blind-baking (when one cooks crust without the contents) serves several important purposes. It can cook the crust when the crust will take longer to cook than its eventual contents. It can cook the crust when the filling is an unbaked filling. And it can prevent crust from becoming soggy, which is an experience that I think is worse in retrospect than it is in the eating. The weights, or the beans, prevent the pastry from puffing before it gets its filling.
Also, regarding the use of the fingers in this recipe… I felt like a gleeful six-year-old playing with playdough. And it works! I was skeptical that rubbing the butter into the flour would result in a coarse meal-like mixture, but it really, truly does.
SAVORY SPRING VEGETABLE AND GOAT CHEESE TART, adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit May 2012
1 store-bought pie crust (or homemade, see above)
all-purpose flour (for surface)
2 bunches asparagus (approximately 1 1/4 lb.), trimmed
5 spring onions or 12 scallions
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
3 large eggs
If store-bought pie crust: Roll out pie crust to 12 inch circle, transfer to tart pan and follow instructions. If homemade, see above.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut off top 1 1/2 inch of asparagus tips and reserve, then slice stalks into 1/4 inch rounds, discarding any hardened areas of the stalks.
If using spring onions, cut white bulbs from onions, then trim and quarter; if using scallions, do the same but halve, not quarter. Slice pale green parts into 1/4 inch pieces.
Toss asparagus tips and sliced white onion bulbs in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the foil-covered baking sheet and roast, turning once, until the onions begin to brown and the asparagus is turning bright green and tender, approximately 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, and turn down the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add sliced asparagus stalks and sliced pale green onion parts, and season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring often, until the onions are soft and the asparagus turns bright green and tender, approximately 6-8 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, then spread evenly over bottom of crust.
Whisk goat cheese, crème fraîche, heavy cream, chives, parsley, and tarragon in a medium bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Whisk in eggs, then pour egg mixture over vegetables. Distribute asparagus tips and sliced white onion bulbs evenly on top of egg mixture.
Bake tart until edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is set, approximately 20-22 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Remove sides of tart pan and serve warm or at room temperature.
Be very careful which parts of the asparagus and onion go in the oven and which go in the skillet. I’ve broken the instructions up visually a bit more than Bon Appetit did. I may or may not have gotten fairly far into the recipe before I realized I’d mixed up the two. On a happy note, it didn’t have a negative effect on the taste!
So, if you have a couple hours to spare, I would highly recommend this recipe. It actually lived up to its glossy food magazine promise, which is a feat unto itself.