Post Holiday Bleus

I love snacks.

Wait, let me rephrase.

I loooooooooooooove snacks. I love bite sized things, and things that can be served on small plates, and mini-sized things that pack a giant wallop of flavor in two or three bites. I can make a whole meal out of snacks. Eating small food just makes me feel like I’m having a little party for one. A party for me. Yay me!

We went out for tapas over the weekend and it really reminded me just how deep my adoration for snacks goes.

This recipe for Bleu Cheese and Walnut Tartlets (doesn’t that sound like it could be a 60’s pop group?) comes from a book on Irish pub food that I picked up from the sale bin at Barnes & Noble. This isn’t a giveaway book, but I do recommend buying it if you’re into that comforting sort of food you get at pubs and bars with really thoughtful food menus.

These little tarts are packed with flavor, thanks to the bleu cheese, and easy enough to pull together (of course, you know I tweaked the recipe a bit for you) that they wouldn’t be a pain in the butt to serve as a starter for a dinner party.

Equipment:

1 12-cup muffin pan or 2 6-cup muffin pans (I used the throwaway aluminum ones because I hate doing dishes)
1 medium mixing bowl
1 whisk
1 small pot
1 saute pan
1 wooden spoon
knife and cutting board
1 fork
measuring spoons

Ingredients:

2 ready made pie crusts (they come two to a box)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 small leek, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
6 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
3 egg yolks
12 walnut halves
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Butter your muffin tin(s) and set aside.

Prep your leeks and celery. NOTE: Leeks can be a bit sandy in between the layers. Cut off the woody green leaves and just use the pale green and white part. Cut the leek in half, and then you can easily rinse between the layers.

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Cut out six 4″ diameter circles from each pie crust.

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You can get about four out of the unrolled crust as it is, and then you can layer the scraps on top of each other to create the other two.

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Once you have all your little circles cut out, fit each of them into the muffin cups. Make sure you’re pressing the dough lightly into the corners so there are no little air pockets between the dough and the pan.

NOTE: If you want to trim off the edges of the dough to make them look a little less “rustic,” feel free.

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For this next step, you can either press a bit of parchment paper into each hole and fill it with pie weights or dry beans, or you can do what’s called “docking,” which is basically just pricking a few holes in the bottom of each crust with a fork. This allows some steam to escape from the crust while it’s blind baking (baking without the filling) so it doesn’t bubble up. I used the docking method because, well, I was cooking at the boyfriend’s and he was fresh out of both pie weights and dry beans. Either method works, so just go with whatever you feel comfortable doing.

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Put the uncooked crusts into the fridge while you work on the filling.

Melt the butter in a saute pan, then add the celery and leek. Cook them down for about 15 minutes on low heat until they soften.

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Add the 2 tablespoons of cream and the bleu cheese. Mix everything well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Separate the egg yolks into your small mixing bowl and whisk them lightly just to break the yolks. You can discard the whites or save them for another recipe. They’ll freeze, if you don’t have anything to use them for right away.

Bring the rest of the cream to a bare simmer in your small pot, then slowly pour it into your egg yolks while whisking constantly. WARNING: Do not just dump all that hot cream into the egg yolks, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs floating in a pool of hot cream. No bueno. Also, do not stop whisking until all the cream is incorporated into the egg yolks.

Add the bleu cheese mixture to the bowl now, and stir well to combine. Set aside.

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Pull the muffin pan(s) out of the fridge and pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes to blind bake. Once they’re out, remove the parchment and pie weights/beans if you used them.

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Spoon the filling into each crust. Place one walnut half in the center of each tartlet.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are slightly browned and puffed. The centers will still be fairly creamy.

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Let them cool at least 5 minutes before serving, or risk hot molten cheese lava burns on your tongue. They smell really good, so you’re gonna want to dig in, but trust me, they’ll taste better if you’re not trying to eat them around 3rd degree burns.

Enjoy!

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