Tuesday, June 22, 2010

blue cheese and red potato tart

blue cheese potato tart

I bought the prettiest little “freshly dug!” (I could not resist this sign) red potatoes at the market last week. They’re sweet, creamy and cute and need almost nothing to make them welcome on any table — roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper or boiled until tender and tossed cold with a vinaigrette, they’re heaven.

freshly dug baby reds
some spanish blue cheese

But if I were the kind of person who even knew when to leave well enough alone, what would we ever have to talk about? And so I sifted around my endless lists of things I think I might want to cook and landed on what has to be the most pretentious recipe I’ve ever read. I’m know, I really should just focus on the positive (and I will, soon) but seriously: instead of water in the pastry crust, it calls for San Pellegrino, and instead of butter, it calls for Plugrá, an ultra-creamy European butter. Here I had been operating under the assumption that the goal of recipes were to encourage home cooks, not discourage those who don’t keep imported Italian mineral water around for pie doughs, silly me. Harrumph!

cooked potato coins


assembling the tart

Huffiness aside, while I have no doubt that, well, at least the European butter would raise this tart’s deliciousness to even higher levels, I can assure you that it is unwaveringly tasty with New York City tap water and store brand butter. Phew. And really, how could it not be? It has rings of red skinned potatoes, crumbles of bubbled and toasty blue cheese, cream, an egg yolk, a butter dough and a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh herbs. It manages to take something as humble as a boiling potato and cook it in a manner that makes French fries almost look like health food. I respect that. Especially with a green salad; we’re all about balance around here, after all.

crumbled blue cheese
potato tart slice

One year ago: Strawberries and Dumplings and Horseradish Potato Salad
Two years ago: Pizza with Red and Yellow Peppers and Fresh Ricotta and Red Onion Pizza
Three years ago: Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart
Adapted in a bunch of ways from Gourmet

I changed a slew of things: I opted out of the San Pellegrino and Plugrá, though you don’t need to if you’re feeling fancy. I swapped in my favorite quiche crust these days, which barely shrinks and manages to stay sturdy even without par-baking first. I made one large tart, rather than the 6 tartlets the original recipe called for, added more potatoes to compensate, and swapped tarragon (what I had on hand) for the suggested thyme and rosemary but think any herb you enjoy eating with potatoes and cheese would work.

One note: This is not a quiche. The filling will remain soft and custard-like after baked, not firm up like most egg fillings. I liked this texture; it was a little different but wanted to give a heads-up that the recipe hasn’t gone wrong if your potatoes can still be nudged a little after baking.

1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice, such as a mixture of thyme and rosemary
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.

Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.

Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold. With a big green salad, for balance.

Savory Tart Shell

1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.

This dough can also be made a food processor, or in a stand mixer, though I’ve only tried it in a food processor.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with a filling of your choice, no parbaking required.


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