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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Savory Springtime Tart with Ham and Asparagus

I originally made this tart months ago on a day when I apparently was not “all there”. Not unlike like the day I asked Brent how I could thicken up pasta sauce. The answer of course is tomato paste but I was having a blonde moment.

Well, maybe I should say a “brown out” since I’m a brunette.

When I made this recipe originally it was fantastic and we both loved it. There was one minor glitch however. When I decided to make this for dinner, the store didn’t have gruyere. (Big FAIL to you Mr. Grocery Store.) I was NOT in the mood to try another store, so I went to the deli and asked them to slice me the amount I needed. I found out later that gruyere from the deli doesn’t melt all that nicely. So instead of a nice cheesy, melty layer of gruyere…this had little thin sticks of gruyere. Brent said he liked it like this, but I was bummed for several reasons and even though I kept the pictures, I never posted it.

I decided to make it again since Easter is this weekend, and I think it would be an absolutely fantastic way to use up leftover ham. I made a few adjustments from my first attempt and I think it was for the better. This recipe has ham, asparagus, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and a Dijon béchamel sauce. It is the perfect storm of yummy goodness.

Savory Springtime Tart
*Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
(printable version)

What you need:
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 scant tablespoon flour, plus additional for dusting
- 1 cup milk
- couple of dashes ground nutmeg
- 2.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup ham, cubed small
- 6-8 medium asparagus spears
- 4 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Helpful item: Parchment paper

How to do it:

1 – In a medium sauté pan add 2 tablespoons of butter and diced onion. Sauté over medium low heat, keeping pan covered when not stirring occasionally. Cook until onions are caramelized, about 25 minutes. Click here for more detailed instructions on caramelizing onions.

2- While onions are cooking, take asparagus spears and trim the ends. (To find out where to trim, take a few and “snap” them by bending. They will naturally break where you will want to cut.) Next slice them thin and on a bias. Set aside.

3. When onions have about 10-15 minutes left start your Dijon béchamel by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté or sauce pan. Once butter is melted and starts to bubble, add the flour and whisk together for a minute or two. It will form a roux and turn a sandy brown color. Add your milk and whisk until there are no more lumps. Turn heat to medium high, whisking occasionally, until milk starts to bubble and thicken. Add nutmeg, Dijon, and continue to whisk until sauce becomes smooth. It’s done when it’s thicker than gravy and thinner than marinara sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4- Unfold your puff pastry and lay flat on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Roll out to make a 9x12 rectangle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Take a knife and lightly scored around the edges leaving a ¾ inch border. Then take a fork and lightly prick the puff pastry all over to prevent air bubbles.

5- Top the puff pastry with an even layer of béchamel, then top with onions, ham, asparagus, and gruyere inside the border. Lastly, lightly brush border with olive oil.

6- Place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is a golden brown. Allow to cool, then slice and serve.

Thoughts: This tart was made to go together. Mustard always goes great with ham or asparagus, gruyere is a common pairing for cheesy asparagus dishes, and caramelized onions rock on almost anything. The crust was flakey and butter and held up well to the toppings. The asparagus developed a nutty flavor that contrasted well to the sweetness of the ham and onions. The Dijon was mellow in the background, but added depth of flavor and pulled the whole thing together. It got a very enthusiastic nod from Brent when I asked if he liked it. His mouth was full at the moment =)

This is a perfect recipe for an appetizer, brunch, lunch, or a light dinner when paired with a simple salad. I normally don’t say this, but I think this might just be my favorite recipe to date that I’ve posted. Promise not to tell the other ones?


Cassie said...

"The perfect storm of yummy goodness" -- I love that, and I'm completely sold on this recipe!

Kitten with a Whisk said...

Thanks Cassie!

Taste and Tell said...

What a perfect combination of ingredients!!

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