Tart fillings made from greens such as spinach are always difficult to salt properly: too much and the tart’s inedible, too little and you risk expiring from boredom after a forkful or two. Adding bacon to this spinach filling helps, because the spinach itself then may be very lightly salted since you’ll have little bursts of salty bacon flavor in every bite.
Makes one 10-inch tart, about 10 servings
1 pound baby spinach or 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
4 ounces thin-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup finely diced white or yellow onion
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups light cream or half-and-half
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar, Gouda, or Swiss Gruyère
3 large eggs
One 10-inch unbaked tart crust made from Flaky Pastry Dough (see below)
- For the filling, rinse the spinach and place it in a colander to drain. Place the spinach in a large saucepan and place over high heat. Cover the pan and let the spinach steam, uncovering and stirring it occasionally, until it is completely wilted and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain in the same colander and allow to cool. Once cooled, squeeze the moisture from handfuls of the spinach, then coarsely chop by hand. If using frozen spinach, just wring out the excess moisture.
- Cook the bacon over medium heat in a shallow sauté pan, stirring occasionally to keep the pieces separate. Once the bacon has colored nicely, take off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.
- Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375 ˚F.
- Place the pan on medium heat and add the onion. Once it starts to sizzle, decrease the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilted and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and bacon to the pan and season with a little salt, several grindings of pepper, and a tiny pinch of nutmeg. Stir everything together until evenly combined.
- Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the cream and grated cheese. Taste for seasoning. At this point, it should taste like well-seasoned creamed spinach. Add a little more salt and pepper if necessary. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and spread it evenly.
- Bake the tart until the crust is well colored and baked through and the filling is set, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cool the tart on a rack and unmold it. Slide it from the pan bottom to a platter to serve.
Flaky Pastry Dough
Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for two 10-inch tart crusts or one double- crust tart
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 12 pieces
2 large eggs
Note: Even though a dozen large eggs equals 24 ounces, each individual egg isn’t guaranteed to be 2 ounces. If you happen to use the two smallest eggs in the dozen, the dough might not start to form a ball after 4 or 5 pulses. If this happens, add 1/2 teaspoon water.
- To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
- Cut each piece of butter into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and add the pieces to the bowl. Using both hands, palms upward, reach under the dry ingredients to the bottom of the bowl and lift them up through the contents of the bowl several times to distribute the pieces of butter evenly.
- Use your fingertips to pinch the pieces of butter into smaller pieces, alternating that with rubbing the mixture between the palms of your hands, as well as occasionally repeating step 2.
- Continue rubbing in the butter until the largest pieces are no more than 1/4 inch across, but the whole mixture is still cool and powdery.
- Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up. Move the bowl back and forth on the work surface while you stir from the bottom up with the fork until the dough is almost completely mixed.
- Invert the dough to a floured work surface and gently press it into a consistent mass. Continue with step 11.
- To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
- Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until the butter appears in small pieces as in step 4.
- Add the eggs and pulse just until the dough almost forms a ball; pulsing too much at this point will incorporate the butter smoothly and cut down on flakiness.
- Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently press the dough into a cohesive mass.
- Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm or as long as 3 days.