leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

In many ways, fall is the ideal time to be making tarts. Fall vegetables like cauliflower, butternut squash, leeks, hardy greens, and potatoes are all very low in water content and therefore play very well in egg custard. (A tart or quiche with tomato or zucchini is always welcome, but you have to do a bit of work with salt or roasting to pull a lot of the water out first; otherwise you end up with an egg custard that oozes water. It tastes okay, but I really hate the little channels of moisture running through the custard.) As with most egg dishes I prepare, this one was the result of scrounging around in a more or less bare cupboard. I had lovely fresh leeks and eggs, and an odd nubbin of Humboldt Fog cheese kicking around the refrigerator, as well as a couple of scrabbly pieces of bacon. If that doesn’t scream “tart!” to you, I don’t know what would.

I give two options for tart crust below, but you could also buy a tart shell in the grocery store or pull one out of your own freezer. I like my tarts—especially if they are for lunch, which this one was—to be quite eggy, so you will see this recipe has a much higher ratio of egg-to-dairy than most tarts you’ll find in your cookbooks. It sets up quite quickly in the oven, and it terribly filling. You could add more cheese—I simply didn’t happen to have any more suitable cheeses around—and make it more savory. In the recipe below, when I say to slice the bacon into “batons” I simply mean that if you have regular slices of bacon, slice them crosswise into thin strips. That way, when you slice into your tart, the bacon won’t get caught up in between slices the way longer pieces would.

To clean the leeks properly, simply trim off the green top end and the root end, and slice the leeks thinly. Then, after they are sliced, dump the slices into a big bowl or tub of cold water. Put your hands in there and agitate everything. The grit and sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl, and the leeks will float at the top. Scoop the clean leeks off the top, and into the pan they go.

I made this for lunch with a salad, but you could just as well serve it for breakfast with fruit. I think some of the season’s nice pears would be perfect. If you have a slice left over, it makes an excellent supper washed down with a glass of wine.

Leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

  • a prepared tart crust of your choosing (suggestions below)
  • 3 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut into batons, or 2 oz. pancetta, sliced into batons
  • 2 large or 3 small leeks, trimmed, washed very well, and thinly sliced
  • a little butter, if needed
  • a knob of goat cheese (about 1 oz.) – I used Humboldt Fog
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • black pepper

1. Prepare a tart crust of your choosing in a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. There is a great one here and my standard crust here. Or you could buy a prepared one and thaw it according to package directions. You may also have to par-bake it a bit before filling it. Once the crust is set into the tart pan, put it in the refrigerator to hold it.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Meanwhile, place chopped bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until bacon is browning and fat is rendered. Add the cleaned leeks and stir occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until leeks are softened and cooked. If your bacon was too lean to render enough fat, add a little butter if necessary to cook the leeks. Set cooked mixture aside.

3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg, and a few grinds of black pepper. If your bacon is salty, you do not need salt, most likely.

4. Place tart crust on a baking sheet on the counter. Scrape leek and bacon mixture into the shell and distribute evenly. Distribute dollops of goat cheese around the tart. Pour in the egg mixture carefully. Put the baking sheet with the tart pan into the oven. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (without opening the oven door). Bake for 20 more minutes, or just until the center of the tart is set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; cut into wedges; serve. The tart can also be served later, at room temperature.

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