Monday, April 19, 2010

Crab and Asparagus Tart

The tarts were following me. In cookbooks, on blogs, in restaurants, I kept coming tart after tarts, some sweet, some savory, all looking insanely good to eat. I've had difficulty with pie crust in the past, however, (edible but not pretty) and tart crusts seemed too similar. Also it was baking, and I'm not a huge fan of baking. Finally though, the New York Times broke me down. I was minding my own business, sitting on the subway, happily reading an article about 2008 Kabinett Rieslings and how good they were in spring. Then I came across their suggestion for pairing. It was a recipe for a Crab and Asparagus Tart. I ran out and bought a tart pan.

I had to! This tart had in it just about everything I had been craving of late. Spring means asparagus, even if I had to shamefully buy it from California, it included goat cheese, which I already had in my fridge. And it had crab.

My family, for generations now, has been insane about blue crabs. Entire summer picnics have been designed around only the idea of a cooler full of crabs and a case of beer. On summer vacations we pulled them out of the bay, the scrawny little New Jersey crabs. A bar right on the water in Maryland has seen our faces several times, and when that bar was the subject of a feature article in the Times last fall, extolling the virtues of sitting on the deck picking apart crabs, I leaped off the subway at the next stop to call my mom, standing on a street corner in Manhattan as I tried to guide her to the right part of the website. "No Mom, you have to click on Travel. No not Styles, Travel. How did you end up in International? Look at the bar and click Travel!" No wonder visitors to the city think we're all crazy. In any case, it had been far too long since I'd eaten crab meat. I've been prowling the fish shops, waiting for soft shells to appear, but that's another month off. I didn't care if I wasn't going to be able to pick the meat myself, I wanted to eat it. I wanted to eat it with spring veggies and cheese. I had to make this tart.

It actually went pretty well! the nice thing about tart crusts is you don't have to pinch the crust all pretty like you do a pie. Once you have it laid in there, you can just roll your rolling pin over the top, and Ta Da! Perfectly trimmed pretty crust. I made only one significant change from the Times recipe. They call for 1 tablespoon chervil, essentially a fancy parsley. On the day I was doing my shopping I couldn't find it. I considered throwing in some regular parsley I had in my fridge, but I really wasn't feeling the bitter herbs with my nice, fresh, spring tart. I considered my ingredients, and decided fresh dill was what I really wanted to add to the flavor. Dill is so perfect for seafood, as well as for mixing with goat cheese, mild and soft in flavor but bringing a fresh dimension to an otherwise somewhat heavy dish.

Crab and Asparagus Tart
Adapted from the New York Times

-1 and 1/4 cup flour (156.25 grams, I have learned from my new digital scale)

-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
-7 tablespoons unsalted butter
-4 large eggs
-1 Tablespoon minced shallot
-1/2 bunch medium asparagus, ends snapped, halved vertically and cut into 1 inch pieces
-8 oz lump crab meat
-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
-1 Tablespoon chopped dill
-3/4 cup half-and-half
-4 oz soft goat cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, blend four, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cayenne. Add 6 tablespoons cold butter and pulse until size of peas. In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg with 2 tablespoons of ice water. Scatter on flour mixture and pulse until a dough can be gathered together. Add a little more ice water if needed. Form into a disk and roll on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Loosely roll your dough onto your rolling pin, then unroll it gently into a 9 inch tart pan.

Form dough to side of pan, then roll your rolling pin over to trim the edges. Line with foil and weight with pastry weights (or if you are like me and don't own those, pennies). Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake until it begins to look lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook 1 minute. Add asparagus and cook about 2 minutes, until they start to soften. Remove from heat. Fold in crab meat, lemon juice, and dill. Season with salt to taste. Spread mixture into pastry shell.

Whisk half-and-half and goat cheese until smooth. Beat in the remaining 3 eggs until well blended. Pour over crab mixture. (You may have a little too much, I did. I just poured until it looked like it was going to breach the pastry wall, then stopped.) Place in oven and bake about 40 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Let cool 15 minutes, remove the sides of the pan and serve at once or cooled to room temperature.
I was pleased with how this turned out. It was excellent the day of and I think even better for lunch the next day, so it could definitely be made the night before if you planned on serving it for brunch.

The cayenne added a little heat, more of a mouth feel then a spicy flavor. It was the perfect thing because we paired it with the crisp white wine that had been recommend, but if you were doing this for a brunch, I might leave it out. Next time I might trim back the asparagus and the crab a little bit and throw in some sliced mushrooms with the shallots. The article even recommends replacing the asparagus with diced zucchini later in the summer. The recipe is open to a lot of adaptable options, so you can make it your own. Now that I own my own tart pan, the possibilities are endless.


Mhel said...

yum!! Im definitely saving your recipe. love the crab and asparagus combination.... U

Anonymous said...

This looks great! I love NY Times recipes and food articles. I am waiting for asparagus to become available in Bulgaria. I have a slew of recipes I am waiting to try. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Found you via Smitten Kitchen's comments. This looks amazing! I can't wait to try it!

Portia Formento said...

this looks great! i'd be a little squeamish about using pennies as a pie weight though, change is usually really dirty. i know you can use uncooked beans though and that should be just as good - no need to buy actual weights :)

Epicurette said...

Since the pennies are used when the shell is covered in foil, I wasn't too worried. The pennies never came in contact with the food. I thought about dried beans, but all I had on hand was split peas and I wasn't sure that was going to do it...

Portia Formento said...

good thinking :) it looks fantastic though, maybe i'll make it myself this weekend!

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