“Pssst… Your tart was the best thing on the table.” Normally, I wouldn’t be bragging that someone whispered this to me about the Roasted Asparagus, Mushroom, Bacon & Cheese Tart I made for a New York Women’s Culinary Alliance potluck last week. But the person to who said it was the former owner of one of the finest bakeries in New York City [THANK YOU!] Plus, I’d almost thrown the tart in the composter earlier that day.
I was a having an “it’s my circus and my monkeys” day. I was running amok, trying to multi-task my way through a day that was stacked against me, by me. I stupidly left the black pepper tart shell I was testing in the convection oven, when I should have removed it, while I ran upstairs for the umpteenth time scrambling to get the apartment ready for my overseas guests. I got distracted by the duvet cover—I hate that thing!
When I came back down and pulled the tart out, it was not only a wee bit on the brown side, not burnt, but definitely too tanned to be called golden, it was shattered. It had hairline fractures as it if were a windshield that had been dinged by a stray pebble.
I was frazzled and almost out of time, but I managed to compose myself. I considered “worming” it, as in tossing it in the compost bin and letting the earthworms feast upon my shame, but I didn’t have time. I thought about crushing it and somehow binding the ingredients into a roulade and rolling it in the tart shell crumbs, but that seemed unlikely to work or to look pretty and passable in a room full of women who love food. I might have gotten away with it if I only had to feed a group of dudes who would eat anything.
I decided surgery was the only answer. I needed glue and in food that means cheese. I gently smeared the bottom of the tart with warmed goat cheese aka “spackle” and I melted cheddar aka “waterproofer” on top of that. I had to fill the holes to keep the egg wash from seeping through the cracks. This totally worked. I put the rest of the ingredients in the tart and poured in the egg wash. There was no leakage.
It was not perfect once it was cut, but I was told by many people that night how delicious it was. A number of them also said, “Not to admit anything.” when I told them about the crust débâcle. I don’t agree. Shit happens in the kitchen. I’d rather admit I screwed it up and share how to fix it. Even the most experienced cooks have bad cooking moments. It’s best for all that we don’t pretend otherwise.
- 4 strips bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4-pound carrots, peeled and 1/4” diced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/2-pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced in thirds, widthwise
- 10 ounces crimini mushrooms
- 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces goat cheese, warmed
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of fresh chives, minced
- Savory 11” Tart crust, pre, blind baked
- In a medium skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from the fat. Cool and crumble. Set aside.
- Add additional olive oil to the bacon fat, if needed to coat the bottom of the pan and return skillet to medium heat. Add the carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just tender, about five minutes, then add garlic, sauté for another minute. Add the peas and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat. Cool.
- Preheat oven to 400F °.
- Place asparagus on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Cool
- Slice mushrooms in half width-wise, so you have top rounds and bottom rounds with stems. Dice the bottom rounds and stems and place then on a sheet pan. Score the top rounds with a design. I used a paring knife and cut on a slight angle, both ways to remove a small wedge of mushroom, to make the star pattern. You can make any pattern you like. To make the design visible after cooking the mushrooms, make sure you remove the dark skin of the mushroom so you can see the contrasting white flesh of the mushroom.
- Brush a half sheet pan with olive oil and place the chopped mushrooms on one side and the mushroom caps, cut side down, on the other side. Drizzle the mushrooms with more olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the mushrooms 10 minutes and stir. Cook longer if needed. Cool.
- Lower oven temperature to 350 F. Warm goat cheese in a heat-proof dish so it’s easy to spread.
- Smear goat cheese on the pre-baked crust with an offset spatula or a knife. Sprinkle cheddar on top of the goat cheese.
- Mix bacon, chopped mushrooms, asparagus to carrot-pea mixture in the skillet. Pour them evenly into the tart shell.
- Beat the eggs well with the cream, add the chives, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into the tart shell.
- Place the mushroom caps on top of tart spacing them decoratively and pressing them slightly so the bottoms are just sitting in the egg mixture.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the eggs are set.
Here is a recipe for the tart shell. I added a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to mine.