Asparagus and Portabella Mushroom Tart

Asparagus Tart

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Asparagus and Portabella Mushroom Tart
Serves 12 as a Main Course or 48 Cocktail Bites

Notes: Don’t substitute fat-free half-and-half for regular half-and-half. The fat-free version is oil-based and it rises to the top, creating a layer of glistening, unappealing grease. If you want to cut calories, you can swap out the half-and-half for regular milk.

To cut this recipe in half, use a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Just remember to cut all of the ingredients in half. The cooking time remains the same.

You can make this ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate. On the day you want to serve it, bring it back to room temp by placing it on the counter for about 2 hours. Cover with foil before reheating at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until heated through, about 5 more minutes.

One last thing I’ve wanted to say about preparing homemade pie crust: Don’t exclude a recipe based on not feeling competent in the pastry world. Simply buy the dough, pre-made. There are tons of options including frozen-already-in-a-pan crusts, as well as prepared–unroll-it-from-the package-into-the-pan-crusts or even use frozen Puff Pastry and simply follow the package directions. Preparing pastry from scratch is definitely an art and we don’t always have time to master the form!

Ingredients for Basic Pie Crust:
2 ½ cups flour – from stock
1 Teaspoon salt – from stock
2 sticks sweet butter, sliced – from stock
½ cup ice water

Directions for Basic Pie Crust:
1. Arm the food processor with its metal blade and pour in all of the ingredients, except the ice water.  Press pulse for about 10 seconds or so, until the dry ingredients appear like coarse meal.

2. Slowly, through the feed tube, drizzle the iced water while simultaneously pressing the pulse button.  This step is critical – don’t over mix the dough as it will quickly toughen.  You want to “pulse” it just until it holds together.

3. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and turn the dough out onto it.  With very gentle pressure, first form the mixture into a ball, then using the flat of your hands press it into a flat disc.  Remember, the less you handle and maul the pie dough, the flakier the result.

3. Wrap the plastic around the disc and refrigerate one hour. *(You can refrigerate it up to three days before or freeze it for a month. I often will double or quadruple the recipe, freezing several crusts at once so that I always have a supply for last minute pies.)

4. On a floured countertop or cutting-board, roll out the pastry to fit a 10 x 14 casserole dish.  You need about a one inch overhang for crimping/fluting the edges.  Transfer the rolled out dough to the dish and tuck and crimp the edges.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the pastry with a piece of tin foil and scatter pastry weights, dried beans or uncooked rice across the bottom, pressing them into the curve of the pan. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, and then remove the foil and weights.  Continue baking until the crust dries out along the bottom and the edges begin to turn pale gold, about 5 to 10 minutes.  (The entire baking time is about 20 to 25 minutes.)
*(The baked crust can also be frozen. Wrap well before freezing.)

Ingredients for the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil – stock
1 medium Vidalia onion, diced  – $0.68
6 oz. Portabella mushrooms, diced – $2.99
1 clove garlic, minced -stock
3 lbs. asparagus, trimmed of their tough stems *(freeze the discard for soup stock)  – $3.02
¼ lb. Black Forest Ham, chopped – $2.34
4 large eggs – from stock
2 cups Half-and-Half – $1.99
½ Teaspoon Nutmeg – from stock
2 cups finely grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 oz.) – $3.48
½ cup Parmesan Reggiano (optional – I had some in the fridge)
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grand total assuming stocked pantry: $14.50
Total per main course serving: $1.21

** Decrease oven temp to 375 degrees once the pastry is done.
1. Using a pot large enough to accommodate the asparagus, fill with water and bring to a boil. Add a shake of salt and the asparagus to the boiling water. Cover and steam at least 5 minutes until asparagus is limp but not mushy. When done, drain immediately and refresh in an ice cold bath. Blot dry with paper towels and cut into thirds. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add diced onions and sauté for 10 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, add the chopped mushrooms. (If the skillet is dry, heat a few drops of oil first.) Sauté the mushrooms until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to onion mixture.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Half and Half with the eggs, Kosher salt, and Nutmeg.

5. Spread mushroom and onion mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pastry, followed by the ham and ½ of the asparagus.

6. Pour the custard evenly over the vegetables and then sprinkle with the remaining asparagus. Tip: I saved the pretty tops of the spears for this layer to create an attractive presentation.

7. Sprinkle the grated cheeses over top and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes until custard is set. Tip: If you see that the crust is browning too quickly, fold pieces of tin foil over the edges to protect the crust.

8. When the custard is set, broil the tart 3 to 4 inches from heat until top is golden, about 2 minutes.

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