I'm very excited to have this guest post and recipe from my friend Abra Berens, a talented chef and farmer who splits her time between Chicago (where she's worked in some of the city's top bakeries like Floriole and Hoosier Mama Pie Company) and Bare Knuckle Farm in Michigan's Leelanau Penninsula. I've always loved being a guest at Abra's dinner table ever since we became friends in college, so I'm glad to be able to share some of her work here with this Celery Ham Tart. From Abra...
Years ago I worked at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have a vague recollection of Rodger Bowser making these tarts for a daily special. When I asked him why he made it, he said, "Celery is really good right now and it is what I wanted for lunch."
When our friends Matt and Carissa showed up next to us at the Sutton's Bay market with beautiful, dark green celery, I knew what I wanted for dinner. Then work got busy, I forgot I had tomatoes that needed to be roasted that day and I never made my tart. Luckily that Sunday, our neighbors Gene and Kathy Garthe were having a party and asked me to bring an appetizer. "Aha, I'll make the tart and cut it smaller!" I thought. There was also an avid mushroom forager at this party, so I made one tart vegetarian, substituting our recently harvested wine cap mushrooms for the ham. Any sort of rich mushroom would work.
I like taking regular pie dough, which I try to keep in the freezer at all times, and treat it like puff dough to make a slightly different texture. It won't puff like true puff pastry, but it is nice and makes me feel like I'm doing something extra for my friends.
The only nerve-racking part of this recipe is inverting the tart onto the platter. The tart is usually greased enough with lard to avoid sticking, but if some sticks, just scrape it out and add it back. No one will be able to see the difference.
Celery Ham Tart aka Pissaladière
From Abra Berens of Bare Knuckle Farm
Nothing in the House pie dough, halved
1 head celery*
1 long leek
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup white wine
5 strips unsmoked ham of bacon**, smoked is okay but can overpower the delicate leeks
2 Tablespoons lard or butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions (freeze the other half for a future pie, or make two tarts!). Once chilled, roll the pie dough into a rectangle and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll it to the same size as the original rectangle and fold into thirds again. Repeat one more time to mimic puff pastry. You could also use puff pastry if you like making your own.
2. For the final rolling, roll pie crust into a circle about the same size as your cast iron skillet (slightly larger is okay, but you don't want it smaller). Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes after all the rolling.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Thinly slice the celery and leeks and wash them in cold water. I like to slice them on a long bias so that the leeks are in long ovals and the celery doesn't look like it came out of a can.
4. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the lard or butter until melted. Add the leeks, celery, and thyme with a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper. Let sweat until the celery is softening. Add the white wine and allow to reduce until syrupy.
5. Lay the ham strips over the leek mixture. Then lay the dough circle over the whole lot and bake until the dough is golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Now your ready for the flip. Place your serving platter over the skillet and invert, flipping the tart out of the pan. Scrape any clinging celery bits from the pan and place on top of the tart. Slice and serve warm.
Recipe notes: *Abra recommends using local celery for this recipe, available in late summer/early fall in most places of the country. But I made mine in winter with grocery store celery and it was still delicious. **To make this tart vegetarian, substitute any rich mushroom for the ham.
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