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Tart Mixes Fennel, Taleggio Cheese and Cardamom

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FennelFennel, Taleggio and Cardamom Tart

The cardamom underscores the fennel’s gentle anise flavor in this dreamy tart, while crème fraîche and Taleggio, a rich cow’s-milk cheese from northern Italy, offer tangy creaminess, further enriched by the cream and eggs. This recipe is adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book, “The Art of the Tart.”

For dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4-5 tablespoons ice water

For filling:
3 medium fennel bulbs (2 1/2 pounds total)
8 green cardamom pods
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche
3 ounces Taleggio cheese, chilled, rind discarded, cheese cut into 1/3-inch cubes

To make the dough: Blend together flour, butter and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 1/4 cup ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough; if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute butter. Gather dough together and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

To make the filling: Remove fennel stalks and fronts. Quarter bulbs lengthwise. Cut out core and cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Crush cardamom pods with side of a large heavy knife. Remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds as much as possible with side of knife, then finely chop.

Combine wine, water, oil, butter, cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet and bring to a simmer. Add fennel and cook, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

To assemble and bake the tart: Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round. Fit into an 11- or 11 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Then run rolling pan over edge of pan to trim pastry flush with rim. Lightly prick bottom and sides of shell all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Put on a baking sheet and bake until sides are set and edges are pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack.

Whisk together eggs and yolk in a large bowl until foamy. Whisk in milk, cream, crème fraîche, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

[amazon-product]0618610189[/amazon-product]Transfer fennel mixture to shell with a slotted spoon, spreading it evenly. Dot with cheese. Pour custard into shell.

Bake tart until set, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and remove rim before serving.

Cook’s notes:

  • The tart shell can be baked up to 1 day ahead and kept, loosely covered, at room temperature.
  • The tart can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, loosely covered. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

From “Gourmet Today” edited by Ruth Reichl

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