Saturday, February 5, 2011

Call it rustic, if you must(ic)

On Monday when the buzz started up about the big storm a’coming in, the first thing I did was check on my frail elderly mother.  Well, that isn’t entirely accurate—I checked on Mom after I checked on myself a few times.  Once I was secure, I gave mother darling a ring—“Mother darling, are you there? It’s me, your favorite daughter, I want to scam help you prepare for the big storm that’s a’coming in! … You need some essentials to make it through? Why, yes! I can buy you butter, half and half, and cheese.”  In fact, I had been planning to buy cheese myself, and now Moopsie’s credit card was involved. Free cheese for me! 
But what cheese did I want from my benefactor? I settled on Humboldt fog, a tangy goat milk cheese with a “ribbon of edible vegetable ash” through the middle.  Around the rind it is runny and soft, whereas the center is more characteristic of fresh goat cheese (albeit denser in texture and flavor). It’s like two cheeses in one. And it is delicious.

I secured the cheeses from Pastoral and made my way south.  Alex and I braved the local grocery, packed with hummus hoarders and pita pocketers, to ensure that my Moopsie got the milk products she needed.  Alas, before bringing the spoils back to the motherland, we became hungry and brought ourselves home. 
I stood in the kitchen, free cheese in hand, wondering what to do.  And then I made this savory pear tart.  A puff pastry crust heaped with firm, ripe red pears, sprinkled with caramelized shallots, and topped with a layer of crumbled fog.  Into the oven until the crust was crisp and the pears were tender, then garnished with chive and balsamic. 

Sometimes I get into a flavor rut, parmesan cheese tends to be the gateway drug. Or tomatoes.  Lately, I’ve been into mustard.  This tasty tart helped me break out of my slump and into a new harmony of flavors.

We brought a slice to Mom, along with her essential groceries, and chatted for a bit about how overhyped the blizzard would turn out to be.  At least we got dinner right.

 Savory pear tart

1 defrosted sheet of puff pastry
3 firm, ripe pears cored and sliced (if you want the tart to be flatter, easier to eat, prettier, etc.  maybe use two pears—or cut them thinner than I did and have more patience for laying them out)
Half a lemon
3-ish ounces of goat cheese
1 large shallot
1 teaspoon of sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.  Slice shallot thinly and sauté on low-medium heat until it is soft and beginning to brown.  Add sugar and a tablespoon of water to speed up the caramelization process.  Keep an eye on the shallots so they don’t burn, but generally let them be while you slice the pears.  
Slice the pears. Toss with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Roll puff pastry out on a floured surface to get rid of the perforation lines.  Prick the inside of you tart with a fork, leaving a border for the crust.  
Butter a baking sheet and transfer the pastry crust to the center.  Arrange the pears in the center of the crust.  Top with caramelized shallots.  
Crumbled cheese over the pears and shallots.  
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brush the pastry crust with a little bit of milk to help it brown (I didn’t want to waste an egg for an egg wash).  Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the pears are tender.  Optional garnishes: splash of balsamic (or more lemon juice) and chives.


  1. This looks positively fantastic! The goat cheese you got sounds amazing. What a pretty dish and I'm glad it got you mixing up your go-to flavor. P.S. haha moopsie.

  2. Looking forward to your mom's comment on this one.

    I will be making this, once I determine where to get Humboldt fog cheese...

  3. This pear & fog cheese tart was savory enough that even my old, tired, and worn tastebuds got a jolt.