These appetizer tarts meet my criteria for an ideal dinner-party appetizer:
- a bite of complex but strong flavors that will stand up to cocktails
- easy to make
- edible without plates and utensils; just pop in your mouth
- can be made ahead and reheated before serving (can also be served at room temperature)
- are easy to transport if making for a friend
So, last night, when invited to a friend’s house for dinner, I chose this tart recipe.
To me, an invitation to a dinner party with friends is a fabulous deal – especially when all you need to bring is one simple dish. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an evening than having dinner with six of my favorite people and my husband (who, of course, is also one of my favorite people). I sometimes wonder if dinner-party hosts realize what a nice feeling it is to walk into a home with the smell of good food, a lovely table setting, and anticipation of good friends and a glass of wine — so perfect. The least I can do in exchange for this treat is to do my best to create something fun to bring along — like bite-sized little chard tarts.
The predominant flavors in these tarts are two strong cheeses (feta and gruyere) as well as smoked bacon, but the color and nice texture come from the chard. Even If you don’t like the taste of chard, I would use it simply because it is beautiful. Green and red chard can be used interchangeably, and they are both pretty, but the red most notably — a work of mother nature’s art.
Chard, Cheese and Bacon Mini-Tarts
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 20
Yield: About 20 mini-tarts
5 leaves swiss chard
5 slices bacon, smoked
2 medium shallots
4 ounces feta, crumbled or chopped
4 ounces gruyere, grated
1/2 cups sour cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon pepper, cayenne
1/4 teaspoon pepper, black
to taste salt, if needed
1 pound pastry dough, chilled, rolled
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. While water is coming to a boil, prepare chard. Wash and cut the thick stems out of each leaf and discard stems (or save for another use). Chop leaves into large pieces (about 3 inches), small enough to make them easy to handle for blanching.
2. Blanch chard for about 60 seconds in boiling water. Drain chard and cool immediately under running water. Drain and press to remove liquid. Then press between paper towels to dry further. Chop the mound of blanched chard into pieces about 1/2 inch, and place in mixing bowl.
3. Chop bacon. I like to slice bacon once lengthwise and then cut crosswise in pieces – about 1/3 inch – so that you end up with little squares. Fry bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crisp. Remove from pan, reserving a bit of bacon fat in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels and add to mixing bowl with chard.
4. Peel and slice shallots in half lengthwise, and cut each half in thin crosswise slices, creating thin semi-circles. Cook shallots over medium heat in the same pan in reserved bacon fat until shallots begin to caramelize. Add shallots to chard/bacon in mixing bowl. Stir mixture.
5. Crumble feta and grate gruyere. As the cheese and bacon are the strong flavors in these tarts, it is important to use a good quality and flavorful gruyere as well as good feta. Add cheeses to chard mixture.
6. Beat eggs in small bowl. Add sour cream, nutmeg, red and black peppers to eggs, and beat again. Add to chard mixture. Stir to mix and coat ingredients with the egg/cream binder. The mixture is unlikely to need much additional salt as the cheeses and bacon contribute salt. I usually add no more than an additional pinch.
7. Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Cut rolled-out pastry dough into rounds slightly larger than your tart wells. I use two Demarle Flexipans with 20, 1-ounce tart wells per pan or a total of 40 mini-tarts. Whatever size tart and type (flexible or metal) pan you use, the pastry should come just below the top of the tart cup as any overhanging pastry will burn. Fill tarts.
8. Bake approximately 20 minutes — until filling rises in the center, and the top and crust edges begin to brown. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your mini-tarts.
DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS: If you are transporting these for service, they can be made ahead of time, including baking, and reheated for service. If necessary, they can also be baked, frozen and reheated for service. If you don’t need to transport these, the filling can be made a few hours ahead, and you can assemble and bake immediately before service.