Monday, May 28, 2012

5 Star Makeover "Restaurant Wars": Goat Cheese and Leek Tartlets with Rhubarb Gastrique

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I'm beyond thrilled to announce that I'm officially a member of the 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group, hosted by Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks. Every month, these wonderful hosts come up with exciting challenges for the group members to explore. For the months of April and May, they extended the biggest challenge of all. Working with a group! Members were split into groups to come up with a Restaurant Wars-style menu, all focusing on the same ingredient(s) or theme, and creating dishes for consecutive courses (appetizer, entree, dessert, etc). Some groups had trouble working together and needed to be redistributed among other groups. See how it can be a challenge sometimes?

Fortunately, my group didn't have any issues working together. I was very excited to work on this group effort with our lovely host Natasha, Angela at Spinach Tiger, and Bren at Flanboyant Eats. We started out by coming up with our theme ingredient, or in our case ingredients plural. Rhubarb was on the table immediately, and a couple of us had thoughts to include goat cheese in our dishes as well. It seemed natural to make both of those ingredients our theme ingredients, showcasing the versatility of this magical pair. Just for fun, we decided to also name our "restaurant." I immediately threw out The Pink Goat, and the name stuck :)

I volunteered to make the first course, an appetizer featuring goat cheese and leek tartlets served with a velvety rhubarb gastrique. A gastrique is simply a sweet/sour sauce featuring vinegar and sugar. It can be made in many ways, utilizing a variety of components to heighten the flavor. Fruits are a typical addition to the basic gastrique, and in this case I used our key ingredient rhubarb, not exactly a fruit, but often paired with fruits and cooked with sugar to result in something tart and sweet... perfect for a gastrique! A pinch of ground allspice added a mild layer of spice, as well as flecks of black in the sauce that almost resembled those of a vanilla bean.

Looks like a shooting star!!

The tartlets themselves feature a flaky and buttery crust, tender, mildly oniony leeks, and a tangy goat cheese filling. They are best served warm along with some of the beautifully pink sauce. Although both the tartlets and sauce are delectable on their own, they are even better when paired together. Truly a match made in Heaven! Although the dish does require several steps in order to finish its composition, it's absolutely worth it, in my opinion, and results in a truly mouthwatering start to our meal at The Pink Goat.

Goat Cheese and Leek Tartlets with Rhubarb Gastrique
Makes 6 (4-inch) tartlets and 1 scant cup gastrique

1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 T. very cold water
3/4 cup plus 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
9 T. (1 stick plus 1 T.) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes

1 (1/2 lb) stalk rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T. unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch ground allspice

1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 a leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
5 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 T. sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Keep cold in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl and add the small butter cubes, scattering all over. Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still the size of peas. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball. You should still be able to see some butter chunks.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight (this dough can now be frozen in a freezer bag and then defrosted in the refrigerator the day before it is to be used).

Next, place all of the gastrique ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb softens and breaks down and the mixture is thick. Pour into a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the leeks to cool.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Place the chilled dough on a floured surface and cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll out to 1/8 inch thick, lifting and rotating the dough to make sure it doesn't stick, and working quickly to ensure the dough stays as cold as possible. Add more flour to the board as needed. Gently line each of 6 (4-inch) tarlet pans with the small dough circles, pressing gently into the pans. Trim off excess dough and chill the dough-lined pans in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To a food processor add the goat cheese, egg, heavy cream, and sour cream and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and puree once again.

Remove the chilled dough-lined tartlet pans from the refrigerator and place them on a baking sheet (to make transportation to and from the oven easier). Evenly distribute the leeks into the 6 tartlet pans and top with the pureed goat cheese mixture, spreading it out evenly into each tarlet pan. Bake the tartlets for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is set and slightly puffed, and the tops and edges are golden brown.

Allow the tartlets to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pans (hold each pan with a towel and gently flip it over into your hand and then back right-side-up onto a flat surface). Serve each tartlet warm with some of the rhubarb gastrique. Any extra gastrique would be lovely served with nearly any meat or fish.


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