Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Queen of Tarts Tuesday

I’ve been a fan of tarts for, well, ever. If you’ve been a guest chez La Fourchette, you’ve had a tartor twoor more. One set of visiting friends even suggested that I consider offering tart classes. Perhaps a polite hint during what was probably at least a two-tart visit.

This love affair stretches back into another lifetime, also known as the 80’s. I collected quiche recipes. (Was it that Real Men did or did not eat quiche?! Hmmm…the fact that I have to ask explains a lot about my dating experiences back in the day!)

In those days, I worked from the bottom up with a standard pâte brisée, switching from a shortening to a butter crust when Martha Stewart hit the scene.

These days, I must admit, I cheat a bit.

Available to me here are rolls of biologique, (organic) pâte feuilletée. (A basic flaky pastry.) It's pretty much my staple these days for tart crusts. In the US, you’ll find something similar in taste and texture - well…you know what I mean - but rectangular in shape: the frozen puff pastry. (Perhaps the selection has improved since I left. If so, do share!)

With the crust being a no-brainer, I can get pretty creative with the fillings. And believe me, I do!

In fact, how about an entire day each week devoted to the tart/quiche/pie?

I’m thinking that on Tuesdays around here we'll break it out with a new tart recipe weekly – I’ll share the results of goofing around with what's at hand or some recipe ripped from the inside of those packages of the prepared pâte or whatever caught my fancy as I walked through the morning market.

Pull out your tart dish - or grab a pie pan - slap a pastry in it and fill 'er up! Let's get started. It's Queen of Tarts Tuesday!

We're going to start with the mother of all tarts...okay, quiches: Quiche Lorraine.

While you’re unwrapping gifts next week, you might want to consider whipping up a Quiche Lorraine to wrap your tastebuds around on Christmas morning! As the fragrance of warm Gruyère cheese wafts past your nose, your tongue wraps around the soft soufflé-custard then hits a chunk of salty, smoky bacon. I'm telling you, people! Close your eyes for a minute. Where are you? Perhaps a ski lodge in some little village in the French Alps. In front of the ancient stone fireplace, each warm bite prepares you for the first run of the day. The fire that warms your toes through your woolen socks (the ones with reindeer, of course. How stylish of you!) crackles and pops and you open your eyes…oh my! See?! This is great stuff!

No cinnamon buns for me as the tinsel shimmers on the tree. This is like sticking my fork into bacon and eggs wrapped in a croissant! Give me Quiche Lorraine! And then pour me a strong cup of coffee and, uh...could you put a few slices of fresh orange on my plate because This.Is.Rich.

Rich as in: make-it-a-celebration-and-serve-it-in-small-slices rich. It’s not the least bit shy about calling for a supporting cast to soften its unctuous wallop!

How about a coupe de champagne? Now we’re talking Bonnes Fêtes, people!

I’m not kidding about this being experiential eating! Tell us where it takes you on the first bite.

Bon appétit!

My favorite Quiche Lorraine - and as simple as can be - is the recipe from Joy of Cooking. (Irma still rocks.)

6 servings

Preheat oven to 375º

Prepare a 9-inch pie shell of:
Pâte Brisée or any rich pie dough (see what I mean?!)
Brush it with:
The white of an egg
and prick it well. Chop into 1-inch lengths:
1/4 lb. sliced bacon
Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet, stirring constantly, until the fat is almost rendered out, but the bacon is not yet crisp. Drain on paper toweling. (Watch this! The liquid and fat that will be released into your quiche during baking will depend to a great degree on the quality of bacon/lardons used. Go to a good butcher for this one and get a meaty cut - with NO added water shot into it! I tend to render it on the crisper side. I think that's a matter of taste - play with that one.)
Scald to hasten the cooking time: (I don’t scald this…I just whip it gently together with the eggs and seasonings)
2 cups milk or cream (Oh puhleeze. Go ahead and make it with cream! You’ve got a whole week ahead to plan any dietary resolutions for 2009.))
Cool slightly, then beat together with:
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
A fresh grind of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh chives
Sprinkle in the bottom of the pie shell the bacon and:
1/2 cup diced Swiss cheese. (Gruyere...I prefer the sharper nutty taste of Gruyère…and I prefer it grated to diced.)
Pour the custard mixture over it. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is a golden brown. For doneness, you may test as for custard. (In other words, “Stick a knife in it!”)

You’ll see in the photo that the top of mine is a bit, ahem, browned this time. Sometimes that happens in the EZ Bake oven that is the workhorse of my little cuisine…I really have to watch it in those final few minutes. This time it just added a lovely dimension of deeper nutty flavor. Still simply delish.

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