I have been interested in cooking for a very long time. Of course, at the bottom of it is my love of good food. And never been afraid to try new food items or recipes. A friend has suggested that ‘Fearless in the kitchen’ could be my tagline! 🙂 So when I started this blog, there was no dearth of topics to write about; there are so many tried and tested recipes lying around. But then, I also want to continue my adventures with new things… so this post is about something that I tried for the first time – a delicious tart of caramelized pear and Roquefort cheese!
This tart was a continuation of the theme of contrasting food flavours, which turned out truly terrific. However, a word of warning… do not attempt this tart unless you are a hard core cheese aficionado. Roquefort cheese is not for the faint of heart. Its sharp, tangy, salty, and ripe flavour comes from the mould Penicillium Roqueforti that grows on the floor of the Combalou caves in which the cheese is aged.
You can see and smell the mould in green powdery veins on the cheese. And boy, is it delicious! A bit of it on a warm cracker, and your evening is made! No wonder it is called the ‘cheese of kings and popes’!
Roquefort cheese is made from the milk of sheep of the Lacaune, Manech and Basco-Béarnaise breeds, in the south of France. And aged for five months in the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. According to legend, a young shepherd left his bread and sheep’s milk cheese in the cave while he went courting. When he came back months later, the cheese had gotten all mouldy from the mould growing on the floor of the cave. Either he must have been a courageous guy, or extremely hungry… he tried that cheese and found that it was sooo good. Thus was born the Roquefort cheese.
The cheese is very creamy and moist, and has the distinctive bluish green veins of edible mould all over. A typical Roquefort cheese weighs around six pounds and has no rind.
It can be used for salad dressings and dips, meat sauces, tarts, pies and quiches. Crumbled over pasta, it is yummy as well.
Roquefort belongs to the family of blue cheeses, Stilton and Gorgonzola being other well-known members.
There are restrictions on the production and labeling of the cheese, imposed by the EU to ensure quality standards. There are only seven companies manufacturing Roquefort cheese today.
A group of doctors at a biotech company, based in Cambridge has advanced theories that Roquefort and similar mouldy cheeses help improve cardiovascular health and prevent joint inflammation. Even the longevity and good health of the French population is being ascribed to the anti-inflammatory properties of these cheeses. So people, all you have to do is consume some cheese and crackers along with your daily red wine for a long, healthy life! Don’t you love research of this kind?
Another thing about this tart is that it is a bit time consuming to make. So don’t attempt this if you are in a hurry… pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the making of the tart.
You need to prepare the dough for the shell and chill it first.
Then, blind bake the shell. That is, bake just the shell without any filling, but with some weights in it so that the shell holds its perfect shape.
Then you grill the pears… look at them glistening!
Arrange the pears in the shell, add the liquid filling and the cheese and ready for the oven.
And the mouth-watering pear and cheese tart is done!
Perfect finish to a fabulous dinner! The port wine reduction for drizzling is so delicious it adds much to the tart. Next time, maybe I’ll take it another level by adding a bit of jalapeno oil to that. Let’s see.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup almond flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 4 teaspoons of water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 medium sized firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 3 ounces Roquefort cheese
- ½ cup half-and-half or light cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 cups port wine
- To make the crust, mix together the all purpose flour, almond flour, sugar and salt.
- Add the butter cut into pieces and using your finger tips, mix into the flour mix to form a bread crumb like texture.
- Add the egg mix and form into a dough.
- Shape into a disk, cover with cling wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Peel and core the pears, and cut them into 1 inch thick slices.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan, on medium high heat.
- Lay down the pieces of pear flat in the butter and cook till browned on one side.
- Turn over to brown the other side.
- Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and stir.
- Allow to cook till the brown sugar is dissolved and starts to caramelize. Remove from heat and keep aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degree farenheit.
- Carefully roll out the chilled dough to cover a 10-inch tart pan.
- Place the rolled out dough in the tart pan and push gently in, to fit into the pan.
- Place a piece of parchment paper over the dough and fill with pie weights or any of the larger beans. (These beans will not be suitable for cooking after this, but you can use them again and again for baking.)
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights and replace in the oven for another 5 minutes. When done, allow to cool.
- When the shell is slightly cooled, layer the caramelized pears in it. Keep aside any pan juices from the pears.
- Crumble the cheese over the pears.
- To the pan juices from the pears, add the half and half, sugar, egg yolks, and flour and mix well.
- Pour over the pears and cheese.
- Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, till the center is set.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- In a small pan, bring the port to a boil.
- Constantly stirring, reduce the port to about half and the consistency is syrupy.
- Cut the tart into wedges and serve garnished with the port reduction.