Roasted Pepper, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Tart
I got it in my head awhile ago that the food from the Provencal region of France was the best in the world. It had the qualities of both of my favorite cuisines (French and Italian, of course): the focus on fresh, simple ingredients of the Mediterranean like the Italians, but with the refinement and technique of still being able to produce a beautiful pate brisee or a creme anglais of the French. Since then, whenever I see a Provencal-esque recipe, I take note of it.
This recipe was one of those times. I don’t think this exactly qualifies as Provencal, because it doesn’t have most of its obvious and signatory ingredients (olives, capers, eggplant, tomatoes, anchovies). Yet the whole thing just seemed to fit for me: with flavors of sweet roasted bell peppers and caramelized onions, fresh herbs of thyme and basil, salty bites of proscuitto, and all contrasted against tangy goat cheese. After being suspended between some cream and eggs and in a flaky tart shell, the whole thing bakes up to be a delicious, creamy, salty-sweet snack or light meal any time of the day.
I baked up two of these tarts—one for my parents to take with them on a mini-camping trip to share with their friends, and another for my family to enjoy at home over the next few days (as in, everyone takes a few slivers for a day or two until my dad just commits to the entire last third of it for lunch). I sadly don’t have a tart pan, so I baked up on in a pie pan, and another in an over-sized, ceramic tart-ish dish thing.
Although the whole process of making the tarts took up a pretty good chunk of time, almost everything about them can be made ahead of time, or over the period of a few days, and then assembled and baked the day you’re planning to serve it. Get the tart dough made and in the fridge to chill; roast the peppers and set aside; caramelize the onions and set aside—you get the picture.
The extended time it takes to prepare the components is a testament to the quality of the final dish, though: the flavors are complex and rich, while tasting rustic, simple, and laid-back at the same time. Although I love the combination of flavors showcased here, I think the recipe is almost asking to have some variations and adaptions thrown at it. I’m not the most adept or confident in boldly changing up the recipe; however, if you try out something new, let me know. Especially if that variation causes the tart to only fall further under my qualifications as “Provencal,” of course.
One Year Ago: Chicken Empanadas with Chorizo and Green Olives
Roasted Pepper, Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Tart
From Fine Cooking May 2008, via use real butter
Serves 6 to 8
1 baked and cooled tart shell, recipe below
3 medium red, orange or yellow bell peppers
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips
6 large basil leaves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons tightly packed)
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
First, roast the bell peppers. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and have a rack positioned in the center. Place the bell peppers on an aluminum-lined baking sheet, and place in the preheated oven. Turn the peppers about every 15 minutes, as they wrinkle and blacken. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until the majority of the skin has blackened and the peppers have started to look like they’re falling apart a little bit. Remove from the oven, place in a large glass bowl, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. This will allow the peppers to sweat and separate from their charred skin easier. Once cool enough to handle, the skin should pull off easily from the peppers. Peel, core, and de-seed the peppers, and then slice them into thin strips about 1/2 inch in width. Set aside.
Next, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stirring often, saute the onions, about a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, a good pinch of the black pepper, and half of the thyme together until the onions become golden brown, soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
When ready to assemble the tart and the filling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and have a rack centered din the middle position.
In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and eggs together. Season with a heavy pinch of salt and a dusting of black pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the roasted peppers (discarding any liquid that has accumulated as the peppers have rested), caramelized onions, the remaining half of the thyme, sliced prosciutto, and chopped basil until well mixed and evenly distributed.
Fill the baked and cooled tart shell (still in its pan) with the roasted pepper mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the filling, and then pour in the egg and cream mixture until the tart is full. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is evenly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve at warm or room temperature.
Tart Shell, or Pate Sucree
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 9 or 10-inch single crust tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into little pieces
1 large egg yolk, beaten
3-4 tablespoons cold water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt together until well combined. Add cold butter pieces, and pulse until the mixture resembles what is often referred to as “coarse sand,” about 8 pulses. Add the egg yolk, and pulse until combined, about 3 to 4 pulses. Adding one tablespoon of cold water at a time with the machine running, pulse until the mixture just starts to hold together without being wet or sticky; the dough should still look crumbly but will hold together when pinched between two fingers.
Invert the contents on to a clean work surface and press together into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or up to overnight. (Note: if chilling overnight, the dough will need 15 to 20 minutes to defrost on the counter at room temperature before being rolled out.)
When ready to use, roll the cold dough into a round circle on a lightly floured surface until about 12 to 13 in diameter. Line the 9 or 10-inch tart pan with the dough without stretching it, and press it gently into shape. Trim excess dough from the pan by running a rolling pin over the top of the tart. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes (to prevent the dough from shrinking when baking).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack centered in the middle position. Once chilled and ready to bake, line the tart dough with aluminum foil and and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the dough looks light and golden. Remove the foil and pie weights and continue to bake the tart shell for another 10 minutes, or until it is completely golden. Cool completely, making sure to press down any domed bubbles that appeared in the crust while baking.