Sandra always publishes tasty recipes on her blog Please Pass The Recipe. Recently, her blue cheese tart with caramelized fennel caught my attention. I had never thought of combining caramelized fennel with blue cheese, but I love both of them and immediately understood the combination would be a winner. For a dinner party I made single-portion tartlets rather than one big tart, simply because it is easier to serve and looks prettier. I caramelized the fennel by long and slow cooking to let its flavor shine instead of using sugar and balsamic vinegar. And instead of shortcrust (with a lot of butter) I used Italian-style dough for savory tarts that only uses a bit of olive oil and is very easy to work with. The result was outstanding and I’ll definitely make these again. Thanks for the inspiration, Sandra!
For 4 servings/tartlets (you could also make one large tart)
2 large fennel bulbs
60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
60 grams (2 oz) gorgonzola, or other blue cheese
2 Tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pans
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tart crust
150 grams (1 cup) flour
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
a bit more than 60 ml (1/4 cup) water
Cut each fennel bulb in 8 wedges, then cut out the tough core as shown, making sure to cut away the bottom, and finish by slicing up each wedge.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Add the fennel and season with salt. Stir until the fennel is coated with butter.
Lower the heat to medium and cover. Cook the fennel, stirring regularly…
…until soft and caramelized. The trick is to allow the fennel to brown without allowing it to burn. There is a fine line between that! When the fennel is done, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Meanwhile, make the dough. You can do this by hand, but I prefer the stand mixer. Put 150 grams of flour in the bowl of the stand mixer and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Add 60 ml of water and mix with the paddle attachment.
Add a bit more water if needed to get the dough to come together.
Switch over to the dough hook and allow the machine to knead on medium speed…
…until the dough is smooth and pliable, about 5 minutes.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for at least half an hour.
Divide the dough into 4 balls. Roll out each ball on a floured work surface until large enough to line a 10 cm (4 inch) tart pan.
Grease 4 of those tart pans with butter and line them with the rolled out dough. Use the rolling pin to easily ‘cut off’ any excess dough.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F, using heat from below if possible.
Whisk 2 eggs with 60 ml of milk. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Fill the prepared tarts with caramelized fennel and the egg mixture.
Dot each tart with 15 grams (1/2 oz) of gorgonzola.
Bake for about 30 minutes at 180C/350F or until the crust is cooked, the filling has set, and the gorgonzola has melted.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
We enjoyed this with a dry muscat. Muscat is an aromatic grape variety that is mostly used to make sweet wines, but there are also some dry versions. This “Aroma” by Camilo Castilla has the correct name, because it is not only dry and crips but also very aromatic. This works very well with the outspoken flavors of the caramelized fennel and blue cheese.
If you don’t want to spend most of Christmas in the kitchen, how about a Chinese Hot Pot? It is very tasty and a lot of fun, as everyone can prepare their own feast. The bonus is drinking the stock at the end.