Last week, one of us had to go to a dinner meeting that’s sort of a potluck, and that happens about once a month. We always look forward to deciding what to make, debating the ease versus the tastiness, and evaluating how many other things we’re going to have going as we get closer to the appointed date. But, the most important thing we think about is how well the dish will travel. For salads and many desserts, this is easy, as most salads and desserts travel well, and taste good even if they are a bit warmer than one might like.
Main dishes, however, are more problematic, since some of those taste best when they’re hot before they start to congeal or separate. So, we spend some time discussing what we think are the pros and cons for each dish we’re considering. The other thing we try to consider is whether the dish is “different enough,” meaning, is the dish something that people will find new and interesting, and, more to the point, do we find it new and interesting?
We finally settled on a couple of Mushroom, Feta, and Tomato Tarts that we found in Eric Lanlard’s book, Tart It Up! They seemed well within our abilities and simply sounded good. In the photos below, you’ll see us putting together two of these tarts, but, not to worry, the recipe is for just one tart.
Makes one 9-inch tart.
Eggs: the best ones come from happy hens and you want the best. This is an egg dish, after all. For the crust, we suggest the Pâte Brisée because it’s the simplest and best crust recipe we know of. We had to buy the cherry tomatoes at the store, and, even though we purchased organic tomatoes, they were substandard. One taste and you could tell they were picked green and treated with ethylene gas to make them look ripe — they weren’t. So, if you can get truly ripe cherry tomatoes, your tart will be far better. Don’t buy pre-crumbled Feta cheese, it loses its flavor as it sits in that tub; instead, buy a chunk of Feta and just crumble it with your fingers.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Move a rack to the center of the oven.
Roll dough. Roll out the pastry crust between two pieces of baking parchment. By using parchment, you don’t need to add flour during the rolling (but if you don’t have parchment paper, use as little flour as possible). Once you have a large enough disk, fit it into a 9-inch tart pan.
Dock and chill. Use the tines of a fork to prick the bottom of the tart crust. Pressing the tines all the way through the crust helps to keep the crust from puffing up in large bubbles. It “docks” the top of the crust to the bottom, holding it in place. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm.
Weight down crust. Place a piece of parchment over the crust and around the edges, then fill with pie weights or dried rice to hold it in place. We found that about a cup of rice was sufficient.
Bake. Slide in the oven and bake until the crust is set, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the paper and the weights and continue to bake until the crust begins to turn golden brown and the crust looks dry and puffy across the bottom, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. At this stage, the crust is not completely baked (sometimes referred to as half-baked blind), but it’s baked enough that it won’t get soggy when the filling is added. Leave the oven on.
Roast tomatoes. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet with the cut side up. Slide into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to soften. Remove from the oven and set aside, leaving the oven on.
Cook mushrooms. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms are tender, and almost all the juices released by the mushrooms have been cooked away, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
Make filling. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Stir in Feta cheese, followed by the mushrooms and chives.
Fill crust. Pour the filling into the crust, distributing the mushrooms and cheese throughout the tart. The filling should come up to the edge of the crust. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer across the top.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown around the edges and the eggs are fully set in the middle. If the edges start to brown too quickly, you can cover them with a bit of foil to protect them from the heat.
Everyone at the dinner meeting loved these. Secretly, we’d hoped that there might be a little left over for us to have the next day, but no such luck (we’d made a tiny one with the scraps of dough and a bit of filling, so it’s not as if we didn’t get any). Although we lacked leftovers, we were glad that these were such a hit with everyone. After all, we can make one of these anytime we want. The one thing that we were concerned about while making these tarts was the amount of salt. If you’ve had Feta cheese, you know how salty it can be, but that saltiness was tempered by the mushrooms and the eggs, so it wasn’t too salty. We can hardly wait until summer to try this with some truly ripe tomatoes. Five stars.