Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Real Men Don't Eat

It was sometime in the early 1980’s that quiche got its bad rap. That’s when the seminal book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by Bruce Feirstein stormed onto the culture scene, selling over 1.6 million copies and remaining on The New York Times Bestseller List for 53 weeks. The status of the poor little quiche didn’t stand a chance against all that bad press. To this day, my husband won’t touch it with a 10-foot fork. (He also still frequently quotes lines from Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. He refers to Fanta orange soda, for example, as ‘real man’s orange juice’.) I happen to love quiche. It reminds me of my days living in Paris and of other good times (i.e., stopping for lunch at Lord & Taylor’s with my Mom during marathon shopping sprees as a child), but I also love it because its base of eggs and cream is such a great conduit for flavor. It's really like a very creamy omelet with a crust. Real men like omelets, don’t they? I try to solve the issue in my household by referring to a ‘quiche’ as a ‘savory tart’. Yesterday, I baked up this wonderfully aromatic Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart, and was feeling pretty confident of my ability to sell it, along with a salad, for dinner. One major flaw in my plan: Real men, evidently, don’t eat goat cheese. Who knew? I need to track down that dog-eared book and get those rules straight. Rats!  

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

Makes one 11-inch tart, serving 8 (or 1, if you’re like me)

Pate Brisee Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons shortening, chilled
3 tablespoons ice water

¾ lb (340 g) vine-grown tomatoes
One 4-ounce container fresh goat cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
Several grinds of pepper
¼ cup chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Make the tart dough:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt. Add butter and shortening, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. Shape dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.
3. Place the chilled dough on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle, lifting and rotating the dough often, while dusting the work suface and dough lightly with flour as necessary. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and unroll it over an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll the pin over the top of the pan to trim off the excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom of the dough with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Refrigerate the dough in the pan for 20 minutes to firm up the dough. Meanwhile, position a rack in the bottom position of the oven (this will help the bottom of the tart to cook through thoroughly and prevent the top from over-browning) and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Fill and bake the tart:
4. Hull the tomatoes and slice them ¼-inch thick. Arrange slices in concentric circles in bottom of  tart shell, covering it completely. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet.
5. Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl and gradually whisk in the cream, making sure that the mixture is lump-free and completely smooth. Whisk in the milk and the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in the salt, pepper, chives and thyme. Gently pour the mixture on top of the tomotoes. Bake the tart on the baking sheet for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is nicely golden brown.