What’s not to love about a tart? The flaky, buttery crust, infinite filling choices and awesome simplicity of it wins me over every time. We’re big fans of quiches in our house, and I make a mean roasted tomato and garlic tart in the summer. Over the course of the holiday season, I bought some pears with the intention of making a new dish consisting of roasted pears and rutabagas. As it turns out, instead of buying rutabagas I bought sunchokes (damn French translations!) and found myself with a good quantity of just-ripe fruit sitting around the house waiting to be eaten. Another stroke of luck was that I happened to have a huge hunk of roquefort hiding in the fridge, leftover from Christmas in the South of France.
I’m not a huge fan of roquefort, so this really was a perfect coincidence. It’s a bit too much for me. I’m also weirded out by the veins of mold. It just seems wrong. However, this funky cheese, when mixed with the right ingredients and in the right quantities, can be heavenly. How perfect that I had in my house plenty of one ingredient that happens to be known for adding the perfect sweet touch to the tangy cheese in classic dishes like pear and roquefort salad. I also just happened to have some leftover baked potatoes from our raclette the night before.
It was hard to convince Jérôme that the evening’s meal would consist of pears, cheese and caramelized onions. Where was the pork? Wouldn’t it be better to add some ham, or some bacon, or some lardons? I patiently explained to him that no, it wouldn’t be, but he was far from convinced. Luckily I stuck to my guns, because the tart was perfect. Discreetly sweet and savory at the same time, hearty and warm and gooey. It was delicious, and even better warmed up the next day for lunch. It would be fabulous with a walnut and apple salad, or endives.
Pear, roquefort and potato tart
Ingredients for the tart shell (recipe from Smitten Kitchen):
1 1/4 C flour
1/4 t salt
6 T butter, diced
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter with a fork, pastry mixer, or your fingers and combine until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the egg and mix with a fork until you have dough. If the mixture is too dry (mine was), add a little bit of ice-cold water. It may still be crumbly, but you should be able to pull it together on your floured work surface.
Roll the dough out to the desired size and place it into your pie pan. Cut off any excess dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes. There is no need to parbake this tart shell, which is awesome!
Ingredients for the pear and roquefort filling:
3 just-ripe pears (of a firm variety)
3-4 potatoes, baked or boiled and then cooled
2 large onions
6 ounces of roquefort (blue cheese)
2 T fresh rosemary
2 T sugar
1/2 C heavy cream or crème fraiche
2 T flour
2 egg yolks
2-3 T of butter
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350°. Heat half of the butter in a skillet over medium-high and cut the pears into 1/4 inch thick slices. Saute the pears until just golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side. Cut the onions into thin slices. Heat the remaining butter in another skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook for about 8-10 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the sugar and continue cooking another 5 minutes or so. Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, mix cream with flour and egg yolks. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove your tart shell from the fridge and begin with a layer of caramelized onions. Now arrange the pears and potatoes in a fairly even layer over the onions. Add the rosemary, then the custard. Top with crumbled roquefort and bake for 45-50 minutes until the custard is set and the tart shell has pulled away from the edges of the pie pan. You should be able to gently lift the tart out of the pan to check if the bottom is cooked through.