Leeks are truly a sublime vegetable - part of the onion family but on the patrician side of the tree. Their light, almost sweet flavor is so much more sophisticated than their firey, sharp cousins'. We enjoy leeks steamed as a vegetable to accompany chicken or a roast, braised for a bisque, sliced raw in a salad, as a flavoring in stock, and - my particular favorite - in a leek tart.
I shared this recipe for a leek tart four years ago but feel the need to republish it because it's just that good. This one tart will feed the two of us for four meals, with a salad on the side. We freeze what we don't use the first day and then wrap up the remainder, two pieces to a package, for future meals. Defrosting the tart in the oven (300 ℉) as your preparing lunch works beautifully. By the way, if you prefer a vegetarian meal, just leave out the ham, the tart is just as tasty.
1 recipe Pâte Brisée, prepared through Step 1 (recipe below)
12 small leeks (about 3 pounds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
4 slices (about 3 ounces) of ham, such as Parma or Black Forest, coarsely chopped
1 cup (about 3 ounces) freshly grated imported Gruyère cheese (it makes a difference, get swiss or french not american)
- Prepare the pastry per the recipe below.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the dough to a 10 1/2 inch loose bottom black tin tart pan. With your fingers, carefully press the pastry into the pan and up the side, trying not to stretch it. Trim the overhang, leaving about a 1 inch edge. Tuck the overhang inside the pan, pressing gently against the side to create a sturdy, double-sided shell. If you build the pastry a bit higher than the height of the pan, you will have less problem with shrinkage. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork several times. Chill for at least 20 minutes, or wrap well and chill for up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Prepare the filling: Trim the leeks at the root. Cut off and discard the fibrous, dark green portion. Split the leeks lengthwise for easier cleaning, and rinse well in cold water until no grit or dirt appears. Coarsely chop the leeks.
- Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over low heat. Add the leeks, salt, and pepper to taste and cook, covered, until the leeks are very soft but not browned, about 20 minutes. If the leeks have given up an excessive amount of liquid, drain them in a colander.
- Combine the eggs and crème fraîche/cream in a medium-size bowl and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the leeks and mix again. Reserve 1/4 cup each of the ham and the cheese to sprinkle on top of the tart. Mix the rest of the ham and cheese into the leek mixture.
- Pour the leek mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Sprinkle with the reserved ham and then the cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper.
- Bake until nicely browned, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pâte Brisée = Flakey Pastry
1 cup of all-purpose flour (do not use unbleached)
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¹⁄₈ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of ice water
- Place 1 cup of flour, the butter pieces and salt in a food processor.
- Process just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds.
- Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to come together, about 6-10 times. Do not let it form a ball.
- Transfer the pastry to waxed paper, flatten the dough into a disk. (If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle it with additional flour, incorporating 1 Tablespoon at a time.)
- Wrap the pastry in waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
For a party, you can make this recipe into bite-size tarts, just double the pastry recipe and make a single portion of the leek mixture and you can make 36 bite-size party-tarts.
Thanks go to Patricia Wells for this divine recipe from her Bistro Cooking cookbook.