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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tarta Pascualina

I tell you, that dinner club we've been participating has prompted some interesting stuff! Our theme last month was Argentine cuisine and I was tasked with coming up with a side dish. I looked and looked. I became a little frustrated because Argentine food appears to be an amalgamation of many different cultures: Italian, Spanish, and Arabic influences are prominent. I wanted to try something that seemed a little more authentic. I'm not sure how authentic this dish really is, but it sure is a stunning knock out! I originally served it as a side dish, but to be honest, it's filling enough to be a wonderful vegetarian main course. That's how I served it last night.

According to Rebecca of "From Argentina with Love," Tarta Pascualina, or Eastertime Tart, was brought to Argentina by the Italian in the 16th century. I figured 500 years in one culture was enough time to consider it "authentic." And I immediately loved the idea of a pie with whole eggs baked in it! When this thing is sliced, it is so gorgeous. The first time I made it, I made it exactly as Rebecca wrote the recipe. Last night I made some adjustments. While I liked it the first go around (I used all kale), I really liked it last night. I am not a huge fan of strong tasting greens, so I prefer to use all spinach, but you can use whatever mixture of greens appeals to you. I have posted my version of this recipe below.

The first step is to prepare the filling. Mix the cheeses, garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and milk together in a bowl. Add your greens. If you use frozen greens, thaw them completely and then squeeze them to get the excess moisture out. If you use fresh greens, steam them until wilted through, cool, squeeze, and then chop into small pieces. After adding the greens, make sure to mix thoroughly. If you don't mix it really well, you can end up with large globs of cheese that mess with the great texture of the cooked filling.

This tart is made in a 9-inch spring form pan. Prepare a batch of pie crust (or use store bought) and line the bottom of the tart. Gently lay the crust into the pan so that it reaches all the way down into the "corners." Try not to stretch or press the dough down or it will become too thin or tear. Spoon the filling into the shell and even it out across the top. Then gently press open 6-7 holes in the filling. Last night, without thinking, I put an egg in the middle as well, which I think was a mistake, as I think it messes with the cut presentation of the slices.

Crack a raw egg into each hole you made. Note that this picture is from the first time I made it when I did not put an egg in the middle. Try to ensure that the hole is big enough to contain the whole egg. If it runs over, stick your finger into the hole and gently enlarge it until the egg white falls back into the hole.

Place the top crust on making sure that it lays flat across the filling. Seal the edges and flute however you prefer. Make an egg yolk wash (one yolk and 1 TBS water) and brush it on the crust to help with browning. Bake in a 375° F oven for approximately one hour. Now, this is important! Be sure to bake with your spring form pan sitting on a sheet pan. I forgot to do that the first time and there was leakage of grease from the crust onto the bottom of my oven... oh the smoke! You only make that mistake once! Bake until the tart is golden and a thermometer stuck in the middle reads 160° F. If you pull it out below this temperature, there's a good chance your eggs will not be hard baked yet.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the spring form pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the fluting to ensure it isn't stuck to the pan before releasing the band. Remove the spring form band and let it cool another 10 minutes before slicing and serving. It serves well hot or at room temperature.

The trickiest part of this whole deal is trying to be sure you slice right down the middle of an egg for the best presentation! It seems like once you get your bearings with the first slice, it's fairly easy to get it right. Isn't that pretty? The combination of the cheesiness and the flaky crust along with the creamy spinach and that hard boiled egg surprise makes this one a true delight.

Tarta Pascualina
Yield: 6-8 servings
Adapted from the blog From Argentina with Love

One recipe for a double pie crust (or store bought)
18-20 ounces of greens, frozen or fresh (spinach, kale, chard, or a mixture)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, grated
dash nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS milk
6-7 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare the greens: if using frozen, let them thaw completely and squeeze the excess water out. If using fresh, steam them until they are completely wilted. Cool and then squeeze the excess water out. Chop into small pieces.

Line a 9-inch spring form pan with the bottom crust, gently placing flat across the bottom and up the sides. Mix together the cheeses, garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and milk. Add the greens and mix very thoroughly. Place the filling into the tart shell and gently pat it flat. Using a spoon or your fingers, make 6-7 holes in the filling about an inch from the edge of the tart. Make sure the wells are large enough to completely contain a raw egg. Crack a raw egg into each hole. If it spills over a little, simply stick your finger in and gently make the hole larger. Place the top crust over the filling and ensure that it sits flat on it. Seal the edges, crimp, brush with egg yolk wash, and make a couple of slits to let steam escape. Place the spring form pan on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour, until the pie is golden and the temperature in the center reads 160° F.

Let the tart cool in the spring form pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the crust to loosen it and then release the spring form mold. Let the tart cool another 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serves well hot or at room temperature.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Tara,
    This looks delicious! I'm trying to get back to cooking, but I need some inspiration, so I came upon your blog. My last blog entry was about rekindling my love for cooking. Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jerry, sorry I've been so bad about getting back to you. I apologize, but sometimes I lose track of the comments that need responses. As for ideas about rekindling your love for cooking, I would suggest sticking with things that are simple and fun! In my experience, if you are cooking things you like and start with simple recipes so that you don't get frustrated initially, the rest seems to fall in to place. There have been times in my life when I went a long time without doing a lot of cooking and I definitely noticed that I got "rusty" and needed practice before getting back into the more advanced stuff, so just take it slow and have fun!

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  2. This looks fabulous. Our chickens are just beginning to lay again.... and I make cheese, so this can be a very "from scratch" recipe for me. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Tara,
    You have really invested quality time in creating this unique recipe. Putting the eggs in between is really innovative idea. I am going to try this technique with my fried breads. Once again thanks for the recipe.

    ReplyDelete

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