Friday, July 16, 2010

A Pie a Week - Nailed it!

For the next installment of my ongoing pie challenge, I thought I'd make a savory tart instead of a dessert pie. At the farmers' market, they had some wonderful beets - if you don't like beets, stop reading here!

Beets go well with goat cheese or blue cheese and walnuts, so when I saw a recipe for fresh goat cheese, roasted beet and walnut tart, I was intrigued. The recipe is by Boston chef Gordon Hamersley.

I followed his pastry recipe, which called for 1 and 1/2 cup of flour and ten tablespoons of butter - the ratio just between Ken Haedrich's 2 to 1 that seemed to have too little fat, and the richness of a classic French pate brise, with 1 cup of butter to a cup of flour. I've learned my lesson with the ice water - don't hold back.

Hammersly's recipe calls for blending the butter into the flour by hand or with a pastry cutter, then dumping it out of the bowl, making a well in the center and blending the water in on the board.

Then gather it together and push it down and away from you against the work surface with the heel of your hand. This is a technique known as fraisage, and it smears the butter into thin sheets within the dough.

I was a little worried it would stick to my board, but it didn't - as a matter of fact, it was very easy to handle, holding together and not crumbly at all.

I chilled it for a half hour, then brought it out to roll. It was supple and easy. I used my long rectangular tart pan for this tart, and you can see how nicely the dough formed in the pan.

The recipe calls for blind-baking the shell, so I lined it with foil and then filled the foil with raw rice - you can use dried beans too, or they sell pie weights. I've used this cup of rice several times already, and it seems fine to me.

The shell puffed in the middle a bit, but I pricked it with a fork. After it came out, I cooled it for a while. It looked beautiful.

After all that trouble with the butter and shortening recipe, this was a delight. So easy! And you know what? I think I nailed it!! Perfect pastry!

But now let's get to the rest of the tart.

Who likes beets?

I love beets. My family didn't eat them, so I was well into my 30s before I ever tasted a beet. But I love 'em - pickled, roasted, in borscht, in salads....whatever. I love the intense color of them, too - deep red-violet that can turn a Barbie-Pink if blended with sour cream.

The recipe called for red beets cooked with chopped white onion, but after shopping at my farmer's market, I thought I'd turn that idea on its head.

This weekend the market stalls had some nice golden beets. And I had a red onion in the fridge. What about turning the color scheme around? I rubbed the beets with olive oil and roasted them in a 350 degree oven for a couple hours. The skin slipped right off them, and I sliced them into rounds.

They looked as sweet as peaches. I kept some aside for use in salads, and diced up about a cup of them for the tart. Then I diced some of the red onion. I sauteed it in some butter, and then added a splash of white wine.

The acid in the wine intensified the violet color of the onions.

I spread the softened onions in the bottom of the tart shell, then covered it with the finely diced roasted golden beets.

The next step is to make the custard. Hammersly's recipe called for 3 large eggs and 3/4 cup of heavy cream. I had two egg yolks leftover from a project earlier in the day, so I added them, too. I also grated some fresh nutmeg into the custard, since I love it. I poured it carefully into the tart.

Hammersly calls for fresh goat cheese in his recipe, but I had a semi-soft cheese from Spain called "Drunken Goat" - the cheese is soaked in red wine for a couple of days. I grated that and sprinkled it on top of the tart.

My tart pan is small, so I had lots of custard leftover. I buttered a small souffle dish, made a little more sauteed onions and chopped a few more of the beets and made a crustless custard to bake alongside the tart.

Into a 350 degree oven they went, and I set the timer for 20 minutes. While I waited, I chopped up some walnuts - Hammersly calls for a cup of walnuts, and since I had my extra dish of custard, that would be fine.

After the timer rang, I sprinkled the walnuts on top of both the tart and the souffle dish. Another 30 minutes and they came out set and golden browned on top. I sprinkled them with chopped parsley.

We had slices of tart with salad greens and a simple vinaigrette for a room-temperature Sunday dinner. A glass of French rose wine went perfectly with it. The beets were sweet and mild in the creamy custard, and the delicate funk of the goat cheese was a good compliment to the slight tang of earth in the flavor of the beets. I like the fact that the tart was a golden color, and not pinky-red as it would have been with red beets.

It crossed my mind that I could serve this to someone who claims to dislike beets - and they would have loved it, never imagining that such a pretty golden tart contained that despised vegetable.

I wouldn't do that to you....not really.

But maybe you wouldn't have minded. Because the real star of the dinner was the perfect pie crust. This was the best I've made so far. Buttery, rich, flaky....I really nailed it this time!

It was good enough to make anyone eat their vegetables.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It crossed my mind that I could serve this to someone who claims to dislike beets - and they would have loved it, never imagining that such a pretty golden tart contained that despised vegetable.

You might have even been able to sneak some fresh Brussels Sprouts in there, but I shouldn't Godwin on the first comment.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Put me in the "fan of beets" column. I swear by Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food, and there's a really simple recipe for pickled beets and turnips- the white turnips take on a lovely pastel pink color from the beets.

That tart looks amazing.

smalltownme said...

I love beets. This looks so delicious!

(My son has noticed he needs a lot more water than the recipe calls for...)

Sue said...

I do love beets and I really love it when I can get the non-red variety. This sounds delicious. I have had the walnut, beet and goat cheese combination in a salad, but never a tart. Delish!

CaShThoMa said...

OMG. Looks delicious and I can almost smell it from way up north here!

I'm impressed Aunt Snow. Impressed.

shrink on the couch said...

Not a beet fan, but this dish has made me re-think it.

Anonymous said...

Beets start my gag reflex into motion, so I scrolled quickly and only looked at the pictures. It does look very beautiful!
Beets truly are a beautiful vegetable. I wish I could stomach them... but I can't.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

OMG! I prefer savory over sweet, so this sounds delish!

Gilly said...

I loathe beets, - but I am definitely going to try that pastry!!