It’s official: I no longer have a kitchen.
I know, man. It’s a lot to wrap my head around.
Last week, I woke up dreaming about this beautiful French tomato tart that I had made a few years ago. You guys dream about food, too, don’t you?
It had a crispy, buttery crust, tangy Dijon mustard, perfectly ripe tomatoes, and big rounds of creamy goat cheese – that to the unknowing eye looked a little more like seared scallops than cheese (oops, sorry Chaser).
I’ve been harvesting an insane bounty of tomatoes out of my garden lately, and I knew this would be the PERFECT way to use them up. I hopped out of bed and started making a mental list of all the ingredients I’d need. Flour, check… butter, check… tomatoes, check… Yep, got it all.
I pulled out the flour and was ready to start the crust, when Chaser walked in and asked me what I was doing. “Remember that awesome tomato and goat cheese tart I made a few years ago?” I said.
“Sure… You’re making that now?”
I looked at him, excited, “Yeah!!”
He scratched his head, puzzled, and said… “Uhhhh…. ok. Well, do you need to use the oven?” And I said, “Uhhh….. yeah?”
“Cole, we’re ripping out the kitchen today. We’re not going to have an oven… Like, for a while. You do realize that… Right?”
Ok, sure. Perhaps I hadn’t really thought this whole “new kitchen” thing through. Of course, I’m really excited about replacing my old dingy kitchen. But I guess I hadn’t really considered the fact that I’ll be without one during the whole renovation process. A few days is one thing. That’s totally doable. But weeks… possibly months? This is a big deal.
Luckily, Chaser allowed me to follow through with my plan and make the tart anyway. He waited until after it was finished to start demoing the kitchen. He’s a good guy like that. But deep down, I’m pretty sure he just wanted to eat it too.
The tart starts with a simple Pâte Brisée, or an all-butter pastry crust. It sounds fancy, but it’s really just a humble little dough. Pastry crust can be one of those things that makes people want to claw their eyes out. But don’t do that, you guys. Seriously, it’s only pie.
If you’ve struggled to make pastry crust in the past, give it another go. Don’t get discouraged if it hasn’t always turned out perfect. It takes some practice to master, which is exactly why you should get back in the saddle and try again.
Now, this isn’t my grandma’s pie crust (we’ll get to that another time), it’s a classic French dough that can be adapted to many recipes. But if you wanted to sub in your favorite crust recipe (I’m lookin’ at you, Grandma), I bet it would work out just fine. Just be sure to omit any sugar in the recipe, as this here is a savory pie.
There are a few things to keep in mind when making this dough, or any short pastry crust for that matter. You want to be sure the dough is cold at all times. This is especially important if it’s warm or humid in the house. Placing bowls and ingredients in the freezer for a few minutes can make all the difference in the world.
You really want the dough to be cold when it goes into the oven, so I like to place the whole rolled out crust into the freezer prior to assembling the tart. This will help make the crust extra flaky, and keep it from shrinking while it bakes.
I like to mix the dough by hand, but many prefer to do it in a food processor. You do whatever makes you comfortable. The food processor works faster, which is a plus in and of itself, but it also helps keep the ingredients from getting too warm. However, because it works so fast, it can make over-mixing happen a lot easier. You want the dough to just come together. The more you mix, the tougher it will become.
The only other important element to this tart is to use really good, ripe, in-season, NEVER REFRIGERATED tomatoes. Don’t try pulling this recipe out in the dead of winter when the tomatoes are blah at best. It will be a major disappointment, and then you’ll be all mad that you wasted the time and effort.
Make this tart right now.
After all, You do have a fully functional kitchen, don’t you?
French Tomato Tart
Makes one 9- or 10-inch tart
I’ve found that depending on the variety of tomatoes you use, they might contain a bit too much liquid. If your tomatoes are very ripe and juicy (which is a good thing), try removing some of the seeds before slicing, and allow the slices to drain on paper towels prior to assembling. This way, you’ll avoid winding up with a soggy crust and watery filling. That’s not a good look on anybody.
No tart pan? No problem. You can make a free form tart, which is just as good, and even adds an extra hunk of crust around the edges. And hey, that’s never a bad thing. I saved the extra scraps of dough and made a mini free form tart that I hoarded and ate by myself over the sink while the other one baked. I guess you could share yours if you wanted, but hey, I was hungry.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 ounces COLD unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2-3 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2-3 large ripe tomatoes (more, if using smaller tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces (250 g) fresh or slightly aged goat cheese, sliced into rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon roughly chopped chives
To make the dough, start by mixing the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut the butter into the flour. Do this for about two minutes, until the butter is broken into pea sized pieces.
Whisk together the egg and two tablespoons of cold water, then pour it into the flour mixture. Use a fork to stir the mixture until it comes together, adding one to two additional tablespoons of water until it forms a ball. Do not knead the dough or mix any further. Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to rolling out.
When ready to assemble the tart, roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to a tart pan (or straight to a baking sheet if making a free form tart). Use the rolling pin to roll over the top edges of the pan in order to cut the excess dough. Save the scraps and roll out to make a mini tart if desired.
Spread the Dijon mustard on the bottom of the tart to form a nice even coat. Transfer the prepared tart dough in the freezer until ready to assemble (or at least 15 minutes). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices. Remove some of the seeds and drain on paper towels if they are very juicy. Arrange tomatoes around the tart in a nice even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and half of the thyme. Arrange the slices of goat cheese evenly on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme, then drizzle all over with olive oil.
If you’re baking a free-form tart, gather and fold over the edges to envelope the filling.
Pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the dough is cooked and the cheese is nicely browned. This may take more or less time, depending on your oven, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Sprinkle with chopped chives after removing from the oven.
Allow the tart to cool for at least another 30 minutes before slicing. I know, this is going to be tough. But trust me, the wait is essential, as if you cut into it too soon, the crust will fall apart and the tomato juice will go all over the place.