Leek and Goat Cheese Tart
This is what I call a wobbly tart - creamy and soft-centered. Leeks and goat cheese turn out to be a wonderful combination, and the addition of goat cheese to the pastry gives it a nice edge.
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course
For the pastry:
- 1 oz firm goat cheese (rind removed)
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose, plus a little extra for dusting
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons lard, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- a little cold water
For the filling:
- 1 lb 6 oz leeks
- 6 oz firm goat cheese (rind removed)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 4 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced, including the green parts
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
You will also need a 7 1/2 inch diameter fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, 1 1/4 inches deep that you've very lightly buttered, a measuring cup with a 2 cup capacity, and a small baking sheet.
First, sift the flour with the pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sifter up high to give it a good dusting. Then add the lard and butter, and, using only your fingertips, lightly rub the fat into the flour, again lifting the mixture up high all the time. When everything is crumbly, coarsely grate in the goat cheese and then sprinkle in some cold water - about 1 tablespoon. Begin by mixing the pastry with a knife and then finish with your hands, adding a few more drops of water, until you have a smooth dough that will leave the bowl clean. Then place the pastry in a plastic bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F and pop the baking sheet onto the center shelf to preheat.
Now, prepare the leeks. First cut off the tough green ends and discard them; then make a vertical split about halfway down the center of each one and clean them by running them under the cold water while you fan out the layers, ridding them of any hidden dirt or grit. Then slice them in half lengthwise and chop into 1/2 inch slices.
Next, in a medium-sized frying pan, melt the butter over a gentle heat and add the leeks and some salt. Give the leeks a good stir and let them cook gently, without a lid, for 10-15 minutes or until the juice runs out of them. Transfer them to a sieve set over a bowl to drain off the excess juice. Place a saucer with a weight on top of them to press out every last drop.
By this time the pastry will have rested, so remove it from the refrigerator and roll it out into a circle on a lightly floured surface. As you roll, give it quarter turns to keep the round shape and roll it as thinly as possible. Now, drape it over the rolling pin and transfer it to the tart pan. Press it lightly and firmly over the bottom and sides of the pan, easing any overlapping pastry back down to the sides - it is important not to stretch it. Now, trim the edges and press the pastry up about 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan all around and prick the bottom all over with a fork. After that, paint some of the beaten egg for the filling over the bottom and sides. Now, place the pan on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check halfway through the cooking time to make sure that the pastry isn't rising up in the center. If it is, prick it a couple of times and press it back down with your hands.
While the pastry shell is prebaking, crumble the goat cheese with your fingers and gently combine it with the leeks. Now, in the measuring cup, beat the eggs with the crème fraîche or heavy cream; season with a little salt (there is some already in the leeks) and a grinding of freshly ground black pepper. As soon as the pastry shell is ready, remove it from the oven, arrange the leeks and cheese evenly over the bottom and sprinkle the scallions on the top. Now gradually pour half the cream and egg mixture over them; put the tart back on the baking sheet with the oven shelf pulled halfway out and slowly pour in the rest of the mixture. Gently slide the shelf back in and bake the tart for 30-35 minutes until it's firm in the center and the surface becomes a lovely golden brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to settle for 10 minutes before serving. This 10 minutes is important, making it easier to cut into portions. To remove the tart from the pan, loosen the edges of the pastry from the pan with a small knife, then place it on an upturned jar or can, allowing you to carefully ease the sides away. Next slide a spatula underneath and ease the tart onto a plate or board for serving, or simply cut it into portions straight from the pan.