Friday, April 29, 2016

Leek, Bacon and Gruyere Tart

Last Year's Post: Spanish Asparagus Revuelto
Two Years Ago:   Coconut Lime Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Rice

Mother's Day is coming up, and I have a suggestion for a much more fun alternative to a stuffy, over-priced restaurant buffet.  I've been doing this Mother's Day brunch menu for a long time, and it really works.

Here's the game plan:
1.  Make one or more savory tarts, depending on the size of your crowd.  The one shown above is popular with all age groups and can be served warm or at room temperature.
2.  Buy a big plastic container of cut-up fruit at the store, and put it in a pretty bowl.  (No one will ever know.)
3.  Buy croissants, muffins and other pastries and arrange them on a large platter.
4.  Buy at least 4-5 fun and interesting organic juice blends and stick them in a big tub of ice.  Add a bottle of champagne to make mimosas for the adults.
5.  Make a big pot of strong coffee.

If you have family members who always ask "what can I bring?", assign the fruit, pastries, juices and champagne to others.  That way all you have to do is make the tart(s) and brew the coffee.

If it's a nice day, have the party outside.  Everyone is relaxed and the kids have so much more fun than if they were forced to dress up and sit at a restaurant table for endless hours.  And interestingly, the juices are usually the hit of the party because people like to try different kinds that they wouldn't normally have.

This particular tart recipe combines sauteed mild leeks with bacon and nutty Gruyere cheese and is absolutely delicious.  It calls for an 11" tart pan which is pretty big and would serve 6 for dinner with a salad and crusty bread, or would easily serve 8 as part of a larger brunch.  If you want to make a couple of different tarts or quiches (basically the same thing except a quiche pan is deeper than a tart pan), here are a couple of other ideas I've posted in the past:  roasted tomato tart with goat cheese and black olivescotswold quichewild mushroom and gruyere quichesummer harvest quiche, and cabbage and spring onion tart.  If you do make two different tarts, cut them into smaller pieces so everyone can try both.

Leek, Bacon and Gruyere Tart
Serves 6-8

One unbaked pie crust, homemade or purchased
4 slices bacon, cut into small dice
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 large leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned and sliced crosswise 1⁄4 inch thick to yield about 4 cups
1 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1⁄3 cup whole milk
3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
2⁄3 cup grated Gruyère (or Emmentaler)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Roll the dough out to a 14-inch circle about 1⁄8 inch thick.  Transfer the dough to an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press it carefully into the corners and up the sides of the pan. Fold any excess dough back into the pan and press along the sides to make a sturdier rim. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork, line it with parchment, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Put the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the edges of the tart shell are dry and flaky (but not browned), about 10 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment; the center should still be moist and raw. Prick the bottom again and return the shell to the oven. Bake until the bottom surface is completely dry, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.

Make the filling:
In a 12-inch skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a dish and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tsp. of the bacon fat. Set the skillet over medium-low heat, add the butter, let it melt, and then add the leeks. Stir to coat them with the fat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the flour into the leeks and cook uncovered, stirring, for about 2 minutes to cook off the raw-flour flavor. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the cream, milk, salt, nutmeg, and several grinds of pepper and whisk until blended. Add the bacon and leeks to the mixture and stir to combine.

To assemble the tart, scatter 1⁄3 cup cheese over the cooled tart shell and pour in the egg mixture. Spread the leeks evenly. Scatter the remaining 1⁄3 cup cheese evenly over the top. Bake until the custard is set and the top is light golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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