Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Le Tour de France and La Cuisine Nicoise

Perhaps I'm in the minority here in the US, but I'm thoroughly enjoying watching Le Tour de France 2013! Not only is it the 100th year of this grueling race, it was the first time for the Mediterranean paradise of Corsica to host part of the Tour stage! Although I'm not that familiar with the rules and guidelines of the Tour, I'm watching it primarily for the scenery! Yesterday sadly concluded the portion in Corsica, but I will not soon forget the gorgeous scenery of mountains rising from the Mediterranean Sea! I will definitely keep dreaming of visiting this enchanted isle! 

So as the Tour continues today in Nice, I wanted to share "La Cuisine Nicoise" with a fabulous recipe for a "Tourta de Blettes," which is a sweet Swiss chard pie. This recipe for "Savory Swiss Chard Tart," from Laura Calder's French Taste, is not only striking with it's high crusty jagged peaks (like Corsica!) it is absolutely delicious! The combination of Swiss chard, shallots, bacon, raisins, pine nuts, Gruyere, and creme make the most fantastic savory tart! Laura suggests serving the tart in small slices for a first course, or enormous wedges for a picnic. All I suggest is that you make it, right now!

Savory Swiss Chard Tart

Serves 6-8

For the savory tart shell
2 cups flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg

For the tart
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard (about 2 bunches)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (see Techniques)
4 slices of bacon, cut into lardons (thin slices crosswise)
3 eggs
1 cup creme fraiche, or heavy cream and sour cream combined
Salt and pepper
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
A handful of raisins
A handful of toasted pine nuts
9" springform pan

For the savory tart shell
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter, and pinch with the fingers to make fine crumbs. (Or pulse in food processor until coarse texture.) Make a well in the middle. Stir together the eggs and pour into the well. Swiftly mix in with fingertips until the mixture forms a dough. Do not over-mix, as it toughens the dough. (Or pulse in food processor being careful not to over-mix.) Form into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and chill at least an hour before rolling out and lining your tart pan. (Laura says you will require approximately 1 1/3 disks for the springform pan, but I used both.) Chill another 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the pastry with a large piece of parchment in such a way that you can lift it out partway through cooking, and pour in dried beans right to the very top of the pastry. (I have a jar of beans that I use over and over again for this process.) 

Bake the shell for 12 minutes. At this point, lift out the parchment and beans (the tart will have set enough not to shrink by now), put the tart straight back in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking until it is just starting to show signs of color on the base, 10-15 minutes more. Set aside until ready to use.

For the tart
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the chard leaves from the thick ribs. Chop the ribs and stems quite small, and shred the leaves. Set aside separately.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and fry the shallots until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and fry for 1 minute. Remove to a large bowl. In the same pan, fry the bacon until cooked but not crisp. Add it to the shallots. Fry the chard ribs in the bacon fat until tender, 7-10 minutes. (You may want to cover the pan for a few minutes to speed this up.) Stir in the chard leaves, cover, and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Beat the eggs together with the creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. To the shallots, add the chard, cheese, raisins, and pine nuts; toss to combine evenly. Taste, and season. Fill the tart shell with the vegetable mixture,

and pour over the cream mixture.

Bake until the tart has set, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.

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