Grilled Leek, Bacon & Appenzeller Tartlet
Matthew Jennings, La Laiterie at Farmstead, Providence, Rhode Island
This is an incredibly versatile recipe. It uses one of our favorite quick dough methods, and the result is a flaky pastry crust better than Grandma's. In a pinch, you can use frozen pie dough. At La Laiterie, we find the continual challenge is to use fewer ingredients and have more of an effect. This recipe is no exception. It seems as if leeks, bacon, and Appenzeller are meant to be best friends. The heady, herbaceous and slightly pastured flavor of the cheese makes this tartlet a show-stopper. As seasons change, alter the ingredients accordingly. In summer, try ripe tomatoes, blanched asparagus, and chopped chives with fresh goat cheese. Experiment!
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 recipe Basic Savory Pie Dough
1 Spanish onion
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds fresh leeks, tough ends trimmed, cleaned well and lightly grilled
1/2 pound Appenzeller cheese, rind removed, cut into walnutsize pieces
1 full cup of crispy, cooked bacon
The Pastry: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch circle. Fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 400∞F.
Poke some tiny holes in the bottom of the tart shell with the tip of knife. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake until the crust is just set, about 12 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until the crust is light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
The Filling: Cut the onion crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat, add the onion and the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion slices are very tender but not browned, about 15 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and whisk thoroughly. Add the Parmesan and stir to combine.
Place half the grilled leeks in the cooled tart shell. Top with the sauteed onion and garlic, then add the remaining leeks. Pour the egg-cream mixture over the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until custard is set and tart is golden brown on top. If the tart starts to brown too much before the custard is set, lightly cover with a piece of aluminum foil until the tart is done. Remove the tart from the oven and evenly scatter pieces of the Appenzeller and crumbles of the bacon over the top of the tart. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve immediately, or serve slightly cooled.
Savory Pie Dough
Makes 2 crusts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces), cut into small cubes
1 pinch baking powder
6 to 10 tablespoons ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it in with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, gently it in with your hands. Add only as much as you need to make a smooth ball of dough.
Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.