Friday, June 3, 2011

Please follow the directions

I was feeling down on my tart cookbook. I made a lemon-almond tart that I was not fond of. No photo, in fact, because it was ugly as well as not tasty. I had planned to bring half of it to my neighbor's house, but it was unworthy. I was leafing through another cookbook after this debacle and found another lemon-almond tart that I previously made and was successful with. That's when I realized that I am to the point where I have travelled into the cookbook collector category. I have so many I can't remember what I have made and where recipes are. I do have a list of insanely time-consuming projects, and on this list is to make a gigantic index of all the recipes I have made with page numbers, cross-referenced ingredients ... the works. Until that is under way and complete, I continue to leaf.
The tart cookbook will not go in the garage sale pile just yet, however. I made these beauties accompanied by very astringent salads and was wowed. The above is the flamiche, which I have made before, and below is a sausage-sundried tomato-mascarpone-softened onion masterpiece. The key to balancing them both (on different days, mind you) was the aforementioned salad with vinegary dressing that cuts through the unctuousness that each tart brought to the table.

The first time I made the flamiche I did not follow directions because they say to cook the leeks for 30 minutes on low heat with added water and the lid on. No caramelization! I thought that sounded ludicrous, so I hit them with medium-high heat to start a color, then turned the heat down and allowed them to soften and caramelize further. The second time around, for some reason, I decided to follow those weird, French directions, and the result was something divine. I did substitute half and half for cream, but I got better results in the custard arena. I generally believe in following recipe directions, but sometimes you hit upon a recipe where you wonder Did they actually make this thing? I do know that some recipes are not tested. There is a dark underbelly of cookbook authors who throw in a couple untested recipes because they think they can get away with it. That's what I think that awful lemon tart was.
Anyway, the flamiche required 30 minutes of leek sweating, and the sausage-sundried tomato tart required 1 hour (!) of onion sweating - 3 onions sweating. Totally worth it! I even made my own crust for the second tart. I generally have bad luck with shrinkage, such that I shrink from attempting crusts and go for frozen puff pastry more often than not. I manage the temperature just fine; I think I overwork the dough because it never looks like I have enough moisture for it to come together after resting in the fridge. But this time (okay, it was because I was out of frozen puff pastry) I dove in and got just a tiny bit of shrinking. I chose this second tart to make solely because I had mascarpone that I wanted to use. It has no eggs! You just pile in potatoes, sausage, tomato puree, sundried tomatoes, mascarpone, the onions, and flavor with herbs de provence. A salad and a nice glass of white wine round out the meal.

I love tarts.


  1. Do what your dad does - make a copy of recipes that you have tried and like and put them in a binder. Then make a copy of ones you want to try and put them into another binder. Mom

  2. Oh, I have binders in addition to the cookbooks! I'm thinking post-it flags in the books. The binders are mostly for magazine and online recipes. I do love organization projects, but this one will take a while.