Weeknight Dinner: Asparagus Tart

Cooked up on July 1, 2011

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Tarts are such a great thing to have for dinner. While they do take a little skill and preparation, they have great presentation and give off the impression of being much more difficult and reserved for special occasions than they actually are.

Ever since we got those beautiful asapargus(es? asparagi?) in our CSA this week, I’ve been dying to make this tart. It’s a combination of two recipes – I used Alton Brown’s pie crust recipe and a super-simple recipe from Epicurious for the tart filling.

Let’s start with the pie crust – once I realized you could make them in a food processor I never did it another way again. Once mastered, they can be whipped up in about five minutes and used for everything from these savory tarts to fruit pies – really anything requiring a crust. The one thing that you cannot mess around with is the temperature. Pie crusts MUST be cold. As I once learned, even making them on a slightly warm surface like the counter top above your running dishwasher can make them much more difficult.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, chilled
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) shortening, chilled
  • 6 ounces (approximately 1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Ice water – AB uses a spritz bottle… I don’t have one, but it’s probably a good idea.

Put your cup of flour in a food processor and put the cold butter cubes on top (again a temperature issue – don’t skip chilling the fats!). Pulse 3-4 times, then add the shortening and pulse again. At this point the flour should start to look mealy.

Like so. This is where you add the ice water (don’t add the ice). Usually it does not take very much – 1-2 tablespoons. So start with one tablespoon and pulse a couple of times – you probably will need a little bit more, but that depends on the weather, humidity – everything. When it’s ready to roll out, you should be able to pinch it together and have it not fall back apart. Mold it all into a ball and then flatten into a disc about 1 inch thick. Chill for 20-30 minutes – I use the freezer.

When the crust is ready to use, preheat your oven  to 425 degrees and roll out the crust to about 1/4 inch thick. In the meantime, cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water for 4 minutes. Drain.

Back to the crust. Roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap, then take off the top one and put your tart pan down upside down on top. Flip it over, and press the crust in along the walls of the pan to make sure there’s even coverage.  Bake for about ten minutes – you want it to be structurally sound but not totally done when it comes out of the oven. In the mean time, put togther your custard. You will need:

  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried ( I used rosemary this time… didn’t have tarragon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all of these ingredients in something you can easily pour. My 2-cup measuring cup worked perfectly. You could also add a little cayenne or chili powder for a little kick.

When your crust is ready, arrange the asparagus like wheel spokes (kinda pretty, huh?). Then pour the custard mix over it like this:

Bake for 20-30 minutes. And…

You shall be rewarded. This tart is every bit as delicious as it looks.  My hubby and I each ate two wedges, and there were two left for another day. We also supplemented with a small appetizer, but this bad boy is pretty rich. Despite being full of milk and eggs, it was a perfectly-sized light and vegetarian dinner (though: we are not vegetarians – a post for another time, perhaps.)

Bon Appetit! (Ok, maybe I’m not there yet 🙂 )

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