Consider this recipe a gift from me to you. No one (in their right mind) dislikes this dish. Quite the contrary – it’s basically always very well received. Also, look at it! Look. At. It. It’s so gorgeous in this rustic, comforting kind of way.
The thing is – why does there always have to be a thing? – you do need to peel a literal mountain of garlic for this recipe (3 heads’ worth to be precise). I know it seems like an absolutely exaggerated amount of garlic, but just go with it, okay? It caramelizes and cooks down to be so sweet and mellow that you won’t be overwhelmed by it at all (unless you hate garlic in all forms, in which case, yes, it will be hideously detestable to you). Trust me, the combination of salty cheese, rich savoury custard, and caramelized garlic is jaw-droppingly perfect. The genius behind this trifecta is not me, but the ever-brilliant Ottolenghi, who has never once led me astray in any of his recipes (despite the fact that I often simplify and/or tweak them for my own selfish reasons). This recipe comes slightly adapted from his extraordinarily excellent cookbook “Plenty”, which will forever live on my personal top 5 list of cookbooks.
**Please note: this recipe requires the use of a circular, 11-inch (ish) fluted tart pan with a removable base. Something like this. They’re fairly reasonably priced and are a good purchase if you enjoy making tarts and pastry. You also need to own either pie weights or a sack of dried beans for blind baking the tart.
Caramelized Garlic Tart w/ Goat Cheese + Cheddar
Adapted very slightly from Yotam Ottolenghi (Plenty)
Serves 6-8 (though to be honest, I have also seen 4 people destroy one of these when in an advanced state of hunger)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet/block frozen puff pastry (preferably all-butter; usually comes in a 14-oz package)
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled (sorry!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tsp finely chopped thyme + a few whole sprigs to garnish
¼ tsp kosher salt + more for seasoning
4 oz creamy goat cheese (this is roughly 2/3 of one of those smaller logs of goat cheese)
4 oz aged white cheddar cheese (roughly 1 ¼ cups grated, loosely packed)
2 large eggs
6 tbsp heavy (whipping) cream
6 tbsp crème fraiche (stir it up first – this makes it a bit runnier)
Lightly dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll out the puff pastry into a circle large enough to fit the base and sides of the fluted tart pan, with extra room for overhang. Gently fold the circle in half, then in half the other way. Place the point of the circle in the middle of the tart pan and loosely unfold the circle. Accommodate the dough along the sides and bottom of the pan, never stretching or tugging the dough to make it fit as this will result in shrinkage (the dreaded shrinkage). Once all the pan’s edges are lined neatly with dough, run the rolling pin over the top edge of the tart pan, rolling off the overhang to create a clean edge. Line the tart pan with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans (just to cover the bottom and prevent bubbling). Chill the tart for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once the tart has chilled, bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights/beans and parchment paper and prick the bottom crust in a few spots using the tines of a fork (just to pre-emptively take some of the puff out of the pastry). Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until lightly golden. Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on. If the pastry puffed up quite a bit, just give it a very gentle squish down, careful to not shatter everything into flakes.
While baking and cooling the pastry, you can get started on the filling. Place the garlic cloves in a small pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cook the cloves for 3 minutes, then drain well. Dry the pot and throw the garlic back in, pouring the olive oil over to coat the cloves. Increase the heat to high and fry the garlic for 2 minutes, turning as needed to brown all sides. Add the balsamic and ¾ cup water, bring to a boil, then turn down to a vigourous simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, thyme, and salt. Stir to blend and continue simmering until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic is coated in a thick, caramelly syrup (honestly, this can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes, don’t worry so much about time as the description). Set aside.
To assemble the tart, crumble the goat cheese into small pieces and scatter over the baked tart shell along with the grated cheddar. Spoon the caramelized garlic and syrup evenly over the cheeses. Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, and crème fraiche along with a small pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Pour this mixture over the tart filling, careful to avoid any overflow. Sometimes I don’t use every last drop of the eggy mixture, other times I do. Life is a goddamn mystery.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and place the tart in the centre of the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the tart filling is set (give it a gentle jiggle to test) and the crust is golden brown. Place the baked tart on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the base from the pan by pushing upward on the underside, being mindful to avoid having the still-hot ring fall down your arm like some sort of horrible fire bracelet. Set the tart on a plate (I avoid tempting fate and leave it on top of the pan base too) and let cool for 10 more minutes. Serve warm, perhaps with lightly dressed greens, certainly with a very cold glass of white. You’re welcommmmmmmmmme.