Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mustard Tart

Whoever advocates the local in-season eating must live in California, where such a is actually possible.  In mid-March, around here in New Jersey, the only local and in-season thing is my desire for this winter to end.  I long to see something fresh and appealing at the farm market.  This lack of an appealing produce is almost depressing and is almost destroying my cooking inspirations.   So what does one do in the middle of this muddy time, before the trees bloom and there is a sweet scent of spring in the air?  One goes to the pantry for inspiration. 
I have been in love with the book I bought a few months ago that I mentioned on this blog before.  “Around my French table” By Dorie Greenspan has become my most beloved cook book.  Not only for the amazing recipes but for creative ideas and clever tid-bits of personal anecdotes.  I cannot wait for summer ingredients, so that I can start on some of the more appealing recipes.  I am tempted to cook though the whole book, page by page, recipe by recipe, and then blog about it… although I believe that is no longer an original idea.
Back at the pantry, as I was taking stock of what I have (and according to my husband, I have everything we would need to survive a year worth of natural disasters)… I saw very nice French grainy mustard that I mail-ordered.  French are very serious about their mustard and it is a worthy splurge.  The only mustard that a French cook would consider must be bring-a-tear –to-your-eye-fresh and pungent.   Since mustard is such a staple in classical French cuisine, it is an ingredient that one cannot compromise on.
There is a great recipe for a mustard tart in the “Around my French Table” book.  This tart is surprisingly creamy, delicious, piquant and comforting.  It makes a great appetizer course or even a lunch served with a simple side salad.  From the overwhelming success of serving it one, it will sure to become a staple in my kitchen.  Traditionally, this tart is made with tomatoes, but the book suggests using carrots and leeks instead.  Thank god, as the tomatoes now taste worse than air…
The tart is best the same day it is made and can be served warm or at room temperature.  I would not recommend serving it cold, as the entire aroma would be lost.
I probably have dozens of recipes for tart dough, sweet and savory, flaky, tender, sturdy and soft…  For this tart I used the recommended crust recipe and found it to be very fitting.  The egg in the dough accentuates the eggs in the filling and the crust is very tender and flaky.
For the tart crust:                                                                                                  
1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
6 tbs of very cold butter
1 egg
1 tsp cold water

For the Tart filling:
1 Large Carrot trimmed, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 Small leeks ( white parts only), cleaned and cut into matchsticks
2 rosemary springs
3 large eggs
6 tbs of heavy cream or cream fraiche
2 tbs of Dijon Mustard
2 tbs of French grainy mustard
Fleur de sel or any other coarse salt

Prepare the tart shell.  In the food processor fitted with a blade, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times.  Add the cubed butter and pulse to incorporate.  The mixture will resemble coarse corn meal.  Add the egg and if the dough does not come together into a ball, add the ice water.  Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.  At this point the dough can be kept in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a very long time. 
When ready to bake, butter a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Roll out the dough no thicker than ¼ of an inch and press it firmly into the tart pan.  Try not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked.  Trim the excess and patch up any tears by pinching the dough together with your fingertips.
Let the tart shell cool it’s heels in the freezer for 20 min or so, while you are preheating the oven to 400F.  To partially bake the shell, cover with a buttered piece of foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20 min.  Remove the foil and the beans and bake another 5-6 min until the crust is slightly golden but not to dark.  Remove the tart shell and let cool on the wire rack without taking it out of the form.
To make the filling, steam the carrot and leek matchsticks for a few minutes until they are slightly tender.  Mix the eggs, cream and mustards and add salt to taste.  French mustards tend to be salty so taste before you add it.  Also, the amount of mustard can be adjusted to taste.
Arrange the steamed carrots and leeks on the bottom of the pre-baked shell.  Pour in the egg and mustard mixture and bake at 425F for about 30 min, or until the center is golden and puffy and the knife inserted into a center comes out clean. 

Let cool slightly before removing the tart pan and cutting.

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