French Potato Tart with Ham & Cheese

        From the blog For Love of the Table

1 recipe pâte brisée (see below), rolled for a double crust tart, bottom shell partially baked

1 1/2 lbs. potatoes

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 T. picked fresh thyme, chopped

Salt & freshly ground pepper

1/2 c. heavy cream (or crème fraiche)—You may use as little as 1/4 cup for waxier potatoes and as much as a cup for more starchy potatoes.  A half cup is a happy medium, working well for either kind.

5 to 6 oz. ham, trimmed of excess fat and cut into a small dice

4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated

1 T. unsalted butter, cut into four pieces (optional)

 

1 egg yolk

1 T. heavy cream

 

Peel the potatoes.  Using a mandolin, slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the garlic and thyme.  Season well with salt and pepper and pour in the cream.  Use your hands to mix, making sure all the potato slices are coated and that the seasoning is evenly distributed. Taste the potatoes and cream and correct the seasoning. 

 

Place the partially baked tart shell on a baking sheet.  Arrange the potatoes in two or three even layers, scattering the ham and cheese in between each successive layer.  Pour any cream remaining in the bowl over the potatoes in the crust, scraping well with a rubber spatula. 

 

Whisk the yolk and 1 tablespoon of cream together.  Carefully paint the rim of the bottom crust with the egg wash.  Using a 1/2- to 3/4-inch plain or fluted cutter, cut a hole in the center of the top crust.  Place the top crust over the potatoes, being careful not to stretch it, but allowing it to drape naturally over the surface of the potatoes.  Press gently along the edges to seal and to cut the top crust off flush with the edge of the tart pan.   Paint the top crust evenly with the egg wash.

 

Place the baking sheet with the tart on the middle rack in a preheated 375° oven. Bake the tart until the potatoes are tender and the crust is a beautiful golden brown.  Depending on the potatoes you use, this will take anywhere from 50 to 70 minutes.  Start checking the potatoes after about 40 minutes.  If you like, about 10 minutes before the tart is done baking, insert the four pieces of butter into the center of the tart through the hole cut earlier….the butter will melt and baste the potatoes in the center of the tart as the tart finishes baking.

 

When the tart is done, remove it from the oven and place on a sturdy bowl so that the rim can be lowered away from the tart.  Slide the tart off of the bottom portion of the tart pan and onto a wire rack.  Allow the tart to cool for five minutes before serving.  (Often the crust will release butter while the tart is baking, by removing the tart from the pan right away you are insuring that the crust will not become greasy or soggy by reabsorbing this butter.)

 

Transfer the tart to a cutting board or platter and serve warm or at room temperature.  Tart serves 6 to 8. 

 

(Recipe adapted from David Tanis’s column in the New York Times and from French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis)

 

 

Pâte Brisée (Savory Tart Dough):

 

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour (265g)

5/8 t. salt

14 T. cold unsalted butter, sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces (200g)

5 to 7 T. ice water (up to 100g)

 

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 5 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture.  Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary.  If, when you squeeze some of the mixture it holds together, the dough is finished.  Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound.  Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps.  Continue until all of the dough is flat.  Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do.  Divide the dough into two pieces—one (for the bottom crust) should be slightly larger than the other.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing into a thick disk.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

 

To roll out, let the discs of dough warm up for a moment or two.  Butter a 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan and set it aside.  Flour the work surface and the rolling pin.  Begin rolling from the center of the dough outward.  After each stroke, rotate the dough a quarter turn—always making sure that there is sufficient flour to keep the dough from sticking.  Keep rolling and turning until you have a round of dough that is about 1/8 to 1/6 –inch in thickness and is about 11 1/2- to 12-inches in diameter.  Brush off the excess flour and fold the dough circle in half.  Slide the outspread fingers of both hands under the dough and gently lift it and transfer it to the prepared tart pan.  Unfold the dough and ease it into the pan being careful not to stretch it.  Cut the dough off flush with the edge of the pan by pressing gently against the edge.  Chill the shell for at least 1/2 hour.

 

In a similar manner, roll out the second disc into a round that is at least 10 1/2-inches in diameter.  Transfer to a baking sheet and chill. 

 

To partially bake the bottom crust, line the chilled pastry with aluminum foil (dull side up), gently pressing it into the corners and edges.  Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans.  Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes, or until the pastry begins to color on the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a light golden color—another 2 or 3 minutes.  Let cool before filling.


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