Recipe: Easy Bacon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

Years ago, long before I worked in wine, I visited wine country whenever extra time and money made themselves available.  Over the years, I warmed the sheets in quite a few wine country Inns. This tart recipe is from one such place – Sonoma’s Hidden Oak Inn.  It features a tangy goat cheese which is the classic pairing with crisp Sauvignon Blanc, both items being native to the Loire Valley, where one is seldom found without the other.

It is a simple recipe, but an enjoyable one – a perfect combination.  It calls for a frozen pie crust, but those with the inclination and time can certainly bake their own.

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Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
5 Slices bacon, fried, drained & crumbled
½ Lbs (8 Ozs)  goat cheese
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp Salt
~ 5 spears of asparagus, stalks shaved and then cut in 1-inch pieces
½ tsp pepper
½ Lbs puff pastry, defrosted
1 Egg yolk

Procedure

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Sauté shallot in 1 tablespoon of bacon grease for about 1 minute.  Add asparagus and cook over medium-high heat until the asparagus is tender.  Remove the pan from heat and add crumbled bacon.  On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the pastry to a 10 by 16-inch rectangle.  Transfer the pastry and the parchment to a baking sheet.Using your fingers, pat the goat cheese onto the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle the asparagus, bacon and shallot mixture evenly over the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk together the egg yolk and a splash of water (~1.2 tsp) then brush the edge of the tart with egg wash.Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool slightly, slice and serve warm with a simple salad of mixed greens splashed with really good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Pairs perfectly with a crisp white wine such as a racy Sauvignon Blanc or old world Chenin Blanc.

Cheers, Dave the Wine Merchant

Simple Chocolate-Walnut Tart

Choc-Walnut TartAnother simple dessert you can make in a matter of minutes!  But one that will get raves whenever it’s served.

Here, the walnut’s natural bitterness is balanced by the chocolate, and the rich combination of the two will make you want to squeeze this tart between your teeth on a regular basis.  It yearns for a good red dessert wine such as port, late-harvest Zinfandel or the one I’ve recommended below – the sweet Tannat from Vinedos de los Vientos.

A note on the crust, while anyone with a food processor can turn out a sweet tart crust in ten or fifteen minutes, I would encourage the use of a frozen crust if it means you’re more likely to try this recipe!

Ingredients
One tart crust (Pate Brisee), recipe of your choice, or a frozen store-bought crust
5 Oz bitter-sweet chocolate
4 Tbsp butter
1 Cup dark corn syrup
1/4 Cup sugar
3 Eggs
2 Tbsp Brandy, rum or cognac
2 Cups toasted walnuts, cooled and chopped, with enough whole walnuts to place on top if you choose
Confectioner’s Sugar for dusting, plus sweetened whipped cream for topping (optional)

Procedure
Preheat your oven to 350.  Using a microwave or double-boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter together.  If using the microwave, use 30-second intervals, stirring in between with a wooden spoon until well melted and all lumps are gone.  If using a double-boiler, bring the water to a boil, turn the heat to very low, then place a large metal bowl on the pot – it should not touch the hot water, and the bowl must be large enough to keep any steam from entering the chocolate (water makes hot chocolate seize, and this is difficult to repair!)

Combine the corn syrup and the sugar and heat in a microwave for 30 seconds (stir and repeat as needed until the sugar dissolves), then add it to the chocolate, stir for a few seconds and turn off heat.

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the alcohol and whisk until foamy.  Temper the eggs by drizzling the melted chocolate into the egg bowl, whisking constantly.  Gradually introducing the hot chocolate to your eggs like this keeps the eggs from scrambling,

Add the toasted walnuts, blend well and pour into your tart crust, distributing walnuts as evenly as possible.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min or until fork comes out clean.  Allow to cool, then dust w/confectioner’s sugar.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Wine Recommendation

You may have heard me say this a million times, but just in case… one of the keys to a successful wine and food pairing is to make sure the sweetness of the wine is at least equal to the sweetness of the food.  So, a sweet dessert such as this one calls for a dessert wine.  And I think  this one goes better with dark chocolate than just about any wine I’ve tried (with the possible exception of some ports).

Vinedo de los Vientos, Alcyone N.V., Sweet Tannat (500ml), $30 – from the unlikely country of Uruguay, this wine has taken San Francisco wine bars by storm.  My initial order was a trial run of just six bottles, which quickly sold out once I poured it during wine classes.  And when I went to order more I was told the importer had sold out and was awaiting another container of it to arrive.  Ugh.  Fortunately, it has arrived, and I was able to get a small allocation for my customers.  Enjoy!

The First S - SeeCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote for the Day
“Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your to-do list today.  That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.” ~ Author Unknown