These elegant tarts look as if they take far more expertise to produce than the simple effort that is required. Using purchased puff pastry is what makes them so easy and quick to assemble. Count on 15 minutes to make the filling, and five for cutting out the puff pastry squares. Both the squares and the filling can be prepared several hours ahead so that at serving time you will need only to spoon the asparagus/ mushroom melange onto the pastries, and then bake them for 20 minutes. Serve the tarts as a first course or offer then with a green salad for a summer lunch or light supper.
1/2 pound slim asparagus
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, and caps cut into 1/4-inch julienne strips
3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet puff pastry from a 17.3 ounce package, defrosted
1/4 cup crème fraîche (See note.)
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish, optional
Cut off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces, and place them in a medium mixing bowl.
Melt butter in a medium skillet set over medium high heat. When hot, sauté the mushrooms, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with asparagus, along with the dried tarragon, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Stir well to combine and cool mixture for 5 minutes. Then stir in the crème fraîche and Gruyére. (Filling can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)
Place the pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface, and with a rolling pin, gently flatten the seams. Cut the sheet into four equal squares. With a sharp knife, lightly score a 3/4 inch border around the inside edge of each square, taking care not to cut all the way through the dough. (You simply want to trace a frame within each square, which will rise around the filling and form the sides of each tart as it bakes.) Transfer the squares to a baking sheet. (Squares can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
When ready to bake tarts, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Divide asparagus mixture evenly and spread within borders of each square. Bake tarts until sides have puffed and are golden brown and filling is hot, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully. Garnish each tart with a fresh tarragon sprig if desired.
Note: Crème fraîche is available in most groceries. I f you can’t find it, whisk together 1 cup heavy cream and 1/3 cup sour cream in a medium non-reactive bowl. Let stand at room temperature until thickened, 6 hours or longer. Cover and refrigerate. (Crème fraîche can be stored up to 1 week, covered, in refrigerator.) Makes about 1 1/3 cups.
© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011
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