Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More Savory Little Appetizers

Porcini Rubbed Steak on Gorgonzola Spread
Porcini Rubbed Steak on Gorgonzola Spread
The creation of the little appetizers for the upcoming Winefest Renaissance continues. Time is now getting short and I am trying to accomplish as much ahead of time as possible. Regardless, there will be a huge rush to the finish once Saturday rolls around. Besides the 6 appetizer pairings of my own, I was asked to make a couple of appetizers to pair with the "special wine tasting", open to only 25 select people. These wines will all be rated 90 or above. Most of them are red wines (and mostly Italian), so the flavors should require nice hearty flavors in a food pairing. In my blog of March 19th I already wrote about the trial run of the Porcini & Coffee Rubbed Flank Steak, which was to be topped with garlic mashed potatoes. The way I tried these the first time just flat-out didn't work. I tried stacking the layers differently and this was better, as seen at right. However, the subject of the Garlic Mashed Potatoes still had been bugging me.

The reason being that the first time I made the potatoes they were far too runny. Using russets the second time, I did everything possible to ensure that the mixture stayed dry enough. The only problem was it was so dry it would barely go through the piping bag. Making a fair lot of these, this could be very tiring on the hands, and these are not the only part of the overall food pairings that require piping. The more I thought about it, the more I went with the idea that maybe tried and true would be best in this instance. So, instead of the mashed potatoes I made my Gorgonzola Walnut Spread that was such a hit with the flank steak last year. The flavors are bold and it should work well.

Using pestle to form the tart shells
Using pestle to form the tart shells
Anyway, the other appetizer I am making for that special wine tasting section of the event is Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets with Savory Bean Filling. I had made a really delicious bean filling some years back, but made it on the fly. I never wrote down what I did, and had tried to make it again - twice now - and it just was not what my palate remembered. The Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets are a variation of my Savory Blue Cheese Coins, but switching out the cheese and nuts. Making these as little coins and topping them with the Bean Spread would probably also work well, but the little tartlet shells are too cute a presentation to resist. Anyway, for whatever reason, I tried the Bean Filling again and it turned out just perfect, and just as I remembered. It is not an identical recipe, but close enough, and maybe even more tasty.

For the tart shells, if you make the recipe for the savory coins and slice the little chilled log of dough, you just set one little slice into each tart cup and I find a perfect instrument to form the shell is the little marble pestle from my mortar and pestle set. The thick end presses the dough into the well, then the narrow end can be used to press it into the corners. Fingers could be used also! Here is my recipe.

Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tart Shells

Tartlet Shells, baked
Tartlet Shells, baked
makes about 85 mini-tart shells

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, in small cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water

In this recipe, first toast the hazelnuts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet with rim. Roast them for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, pour them onto a kitchen towel and fold the towel around the nuts for a few minutes to cool slightly. Rub the nuts inside the towel very vigorously to remove as much of the dark skin as possible. Once cooled, place the toasted nuts into the food processor and process until well broken. Add in the flour, the two cheeses and the salt and process to combine. Add in the cubes of butter and process in short bursts until the mixture makes crumbs. In a small cup, combine the egg yolk and water, then add this to the food processor and pulse again, until the mixture starts to stick together. Turn out onto a surface (no extra flour is needed) and with the palm of the hand, smear the dough mixture in one long movement. Use a bench scraper to gather the dough and fold it onto itself then smear again. Fold the dough and turn and repeat this process until the dough has come together completely. Divide into 2 or 3 long, thin rolls about 1-inch in diameter. Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

When ready to work with the dough, preheat oven to 375 degrees. If forming simple "coin" shapes, slice the cold log into thin (3/8 or 1/4-inch thick) slices. Set them on a baking sheet to bake. If making tartlet shells, slice the discs into slightly thicker slices. Set one slice into each well of the mini-tart pan and press into a tart shell shape. Bake the little shells for about 15 minutes, until golden. Cool. These can be made ahead and frozen for up to a month. 

Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets with Savory Bean Filling
Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets with Savory Bean Filling

I erred on the high side when making the bean filling. Since everything used can easily be cut in half, feel free to halve the recipe if desired. It is highly tasty and equally good used as a dip for sturdy chips or crackers, or spread or piped onto crackers.

Savory Bean Filling / Dip / Spread

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of bean filling - halve recipe if desired

2 (15.5 ounce) cans white beans
Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets with Savory Bean Filling
Hazelnut Blue Cheese Tartlets with Savory Bean Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimiento, drained well
2 cloves roasted garlic, or fresh if desired
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
4 scallions, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil

Drain the cans of beans in a colander and run copious quantities of cold water over them until any foaming has stopped. Place them in a food processor with all the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Process for 2 - 3 minutes, adding in the olive oil 1 teaspoon at a time if needed for a good consistency, or if the processor is straining.

The Savory Bean Filling/Dip/Spread can be made up to three days in advance, if time is pressing. It is best if the filling is piped into the tartlet shells. If you are not proficient with a piping bag and tips, use a heavier "freezer" type zip-top bag and cut a hole in one corner, making a diameter of about 1/2-inch. If you know your way around a piping bag and tips, use a large open star tip to fill the tarts.  Anything small will clog with the bits of rosemary, scallion or anything else that hasn't gotten completely pureed smooth.  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.