This smooth forest-green tart is a recipe from my time as sous chef at Heartland. We had two daily changing tasting menus: one vegetarian, one meat. The vegetarian menu was always the tricky one for me, as cooking good meat by comparison, is easy, you just cook it.
Sure, you can always do something like make homemade pasta, useful for all its sizes and variations, but there’s something to be said for a well-executed vegetarian entree that’s not pasta, or a giant cooked vegetable, or some conglomeration of vegetables.
One week I thought of a new dish a sort of dinosaur kale and parmesan custard that I would bake in a crust on sheet trays, and then cut out into little rounds. You can make them in advance, and they take well to lots of different garnishes throughout the season when dark, leafy greens are growing. My boss liked it too, and we ended up putting a home version of it in his book Heartland: Farm Forward Recipes From the Great Midwest a few years ago.
When I made this tart, I was just starting to think critically about how I used my camera, and a job perk I will be forever grateful for is the time I got to spend with photographer and friend Tom Thulen on the book. The kale tart, one of the simplest things, ended up being one of the longest shoots, taking about 2.5 hours. Seeing the end photos inspired me and I had to go home, make another pie, and try to recreate the magic Tom did.
For home cooking, it isn’t practical to bake large trays and cut out rounds like I originally did for restaurant service as I’d sell anywhere from 30-50 slices a day, but the kale pie works great in a 3:2:1 dough, 3,2,1 referring loosely to the proportions of flour, butter and water respectively-a handy kitchen pnemonic recipe for generic pie dough. After the pie is done and cooled, you can serve slices warmed up, cool, room temp, and everything in between.
One of my favorite ways I served it at home was as a simple lunch with some of my mushroom conserve from the previous season, warmed up and tossed with a few leaves of lacinato kale dressed with the mushroom liquid a squeeze of lemon. Winter is best time to use up your preserves, and I like to really stress the idea that pickled mushrooms don’t need to be ice cold, or be a novelty eaten all themselves out of a jar, using them in general cooking is great.
You also don’t necessarily have to puree the filling. There’s a lot of other interesting greens that when blanched, squeezed dry and finely chopped would work, but soft greens like chard, and spinach are probably my favorite. More or less, I’ve meant this post to be an example of the different ways I use pickled mushrooms in assembling a dish, not a tour-de-force on making a kale tart.
Lacinato Kale Tart with Pickled Wild Mushroom Salad
- 10 inch Tart Shell, Pie Weights
Lacinato Kale Filling
- 1 bunch of Lacinato kale about 1 lb, washed and cleaned
- 2 cups heavy cream or half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs + 3 yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg a couple good gratings
- 5 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano Grana Padano, or other high quality parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- A few leaves of lacinato kale
- Extra virgin olive olive oil or other tasty salad oil
- Pickled chanterelles to taste, the finest ones will be the youngest, bouncy buttons
- Pinch of coarse salt for massaging the kale
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Fresh lemon juice mushroom pickle liquid if it's nice and strong, or white wine vinegar
- 12 oz flour chilled (roughly 2 cups)
- A good pinch of flaked salt gently crumbled to break up large flakes kosher salt can be used in a pinch
- 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, diced small
- 4 oz ice water or a scant 1/2 cup
- 1 large egg beaten well or pureed with a tablespoon or two of milk for eggwash (optional)
- Prepare an icewater bath and bring a two quarts or so of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove the stems from the kale, preferably using a paring knife, but you can also rip in a hurry.
- Blanch the greens in the boiling water for a few seconds then shock in ice water, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop. You should have about 1 cup of kale.
- Put the kale and the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a high powered blender and puree finely-and I stress: super-duper fine, fine enough to go through a strainer. Make sure not to blend the custard for too long though, since the green mixture will heat up and the color will be destroyed.
- Strain the kale-custard mix through a chinois, (optional) taste and adjust the seasoning, yes there is raw egg, no it won't hurt you. Reserve the filling.