Food Network Magazine (April 2012)
Sometimes when you're cooking dinner for guests, you just need to roll with the punches. Usually, that works out A-OK. Happy guests. Clean plates. Satisfied hosts.
Sometimes, not so much.
Zach's parents recently stayed with us for a few days. Since they've visited our nation's capitol many times at this point, we no longer plan their visits around museums or memorials. Now, it's all about where we can go that's a bit offbeat. (Roosevelt Island and Lincoln Cottage made this visit's list.)
And, as always when we're with Zach's mom, we cook. Such were our plans for a recent Saturday night when, after a marathon of eating meals out at restaurants, we all needed a night in. So we planned to cook a spring meal, with this Asparagus and Cheese Tart featured as the entree.
We made our lists, we checked them twice, and we we took off for the supermarket.
Stop 1: Whole Foods. We found almost everything we needed for the meal with the exception of the puff pastry for this tart. The store had chocolate puff pastry, but an "Asparagus, Chocolate and Cheese Tart" is the stuff of nightmares.
Stop 2: Trader Joe's. We picked up a few more items. We were informed, though, that puff pastry is considered a seasonal item. (What season?) We left puff-less.
Stop 3: Harris Teeter. The puff pastry: all sold out. (They did have puff-pastry cups, but we wanted the asparagus spears laid out in rows, not diced up and crammed into little rounds.)
Had there been a run on puff pastry in this town? There seemed to be none anywhere.
It was time to roll with the punches. We had three choices: Make some sort of pastry from scratch, forgo the tart, or buy something else.
Options 1 and 2 were nixed immediately. We already had all the ingredients and after a long day of touring and shopping, we needed a fast option for dinner. So we we opted to buy something else, purchasing a box of two pre-made, rolled pie crusts.
We figured we'd just roll the two crusts into a large freeform tart, pre-bake it a bit, and proceed with the recipe as written.
And that's what we did.
The recipe is a cinch. Fontina and gruyere provide the umami cheesiness; shallot, nutmeg and zest provide a bit of flavor. It's all light and springy. If you're looking for a great meatless entree, we suggest this one. If we were going to make a change, we'd add more cheese (but hey, that's almost always the case).
But then there's the crust. It wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't great. It was crunchy and bland and all we could think was, "This would have been so awesome with puff pastry."
Then again, our guests seemed pleased, so we were, too.
And plates were clean.
We were happy.
Total Time: 50 min
Yields: 6 servings
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound), thawed
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 1 cup grated comte or gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.
Meanwhile, mix the fontina, comte or gruyere, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.