Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Grilled Asparagus and Ham Tart with Caramelized Shallots and Blue Cheese

Some asparagus, ricotta and blue cheese and shortcrust pastry dough were the inspiration for this dish. The pastry was in the freezer, which saved me some time; all I had to do was defrost it, roll it out and line a 10" tart shell. I could focus my attention on the filling.

While I was pulling the cheese from the fridge I saw that there were 6 slices of ham, so I added those to my ingredients.

Start by lining the tart shell, and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling. Heat the oven to 400F.

Using a bit of olive oil, caramelize:

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

When the shallots are caramelized, stir in:

1 cup ricotta cheese

Cook, stirring, until the liquid that the ricotta initially releases has reduced away.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in:

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Place the chilled pastry shell onto a baking sheet.

Spread the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the chilled pastry shell.

Cut the ham slices into smaller pieces and lay them over the top of the ricotta cheese mixture.

Grill asparagus spears, just enough to add grill marks. Be careful not to overcook it at this point, as it will be cooked again when the tart goes into the oven.

Place the asparagus on top of the ham.

Whisk together:

1 cup milk
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper

Carefully pour the custard over the filling.

Over the top, crumble:

2 ounces of goat cheese

Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue to bake until the custard is puffed, golden and set.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to rest for 5  - 10 minutes to rest before removing it from the tart shell and serving it.

  • For the pastry, use the recipe from the post Goat Cheese Tart with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Basil or the Roast Garlic Shortbread Quiche Crust.
  • The custard can be made with whipping cream, half and half or a combination of either of those and milk. This will add a lot of richness to the end result.
  • Instead of ham, you can use prosciutto, cooked bacon or pancetta.
  • Thinly sliced apple or pear can be used if you don't have asparagus; the apple slices can be grilled before adding to the tart. Other fruit options include fresh fig halves, peach or nectarine slices or grilled pineapple slices, grilled or not.
  • If you have zucchini, thinly slice it lengthwise and grill the slices, before laying over the top of the tart. For extra impact, weave the slices to create a lattice effect. This works really well if you have both green and yellow zucchini.
  • No shallots? Use thinly sliced onions or leeks.
  • I happened to have a basil plant growing on my kitchen window sill. If this was not the case, I would have picked fresh thyme or chives from the herb garden. Rosemary can also be used if you like.
  • Cheese options are endless, but I like the combination of the blue cheese with the asparagus. It also works well with the fruit options; goat cheese does too. Other options are up to personal taste and availability...Parmesan, cheddar, asiago, brie to name a few.
  • The tart shell can be lined ahead and either frozen, or refrigerated, well wrapped. It can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days before being filled and baked.
  • Leftover tart is great for breakfast or lunch the next day.

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