Summer is in full swing now, and the days are filled with activity. We often have guests around this time of year, which presents us with lots of opportunities for last-minute entertaining. Easy yet classy dishes that can be whipped up on short notice are always welcome.
With that said, I like to keep discs of pastry on hand. They’re the perfect medium for either a sweet or savory filling, and because I use real ingredients like butter and lard, they have a mouthwatering flavor and unbeatable texture. Pastry discs thaw quickly, so a fresh pie, quiche, or tart can be within reach in just a few hours.
This flan is similar to a quiche, though it’s a little lighter in texture. It’s sure to please any guests you might have. But really, who needs guests to enjoy it?
Let your imagination soar. Depending on the season, mix things up with whatever ingredients are at their ultimate height of flavor and availability. The creamy filling will accent almost any vegetable, cheese, or meat, and the final product is perfectly suited for any meal or time of day.
For a shakeup, just swap the vegetable for fruit, and the parmesan and Dijon for a touch of honey and vanilla (and/or any whatever other complimentary flavors, spices, or liqueurs you like). This version makes a lightly sweetened and somewhat sinful addition to a brunch table. Berries and stone fruits are at their peak right now and would be particularly well suited for such an application.
For the pastry, I cut the butter and lard into tablespoon-sized chunks and freeze to semisolid before proceeding. This technique makes the flakiest final product.
Hands on prep time: 20–30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, plus chilling and cooling time
Pastry recipe yields enough for 1 double-crust pie, or multiple single-crust tarts or flans
For Basic Pastry:
3¾ cups einkorn, whole wheat pastry flour, or other flour of choice (different flours may affect final outcome)
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold butter, cut in 1 tablespoon chunks
10 tablespoons cold leaf lard, cut in 1 tablespoon chunks
6–8 tablespoons ice water
For the flan:
⅓ recipe Basic Pastry
1½ lbs. asparagus, cut into 5-inch lengths (save remaining stalks for another application, such as this soup)
2 organic eggs, pastured if possible
⅓ cup ricotta cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Special equipment: 11-inch fluted tart pan (or multiple mini-tart pans)
- Prepare pastry: Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add semi-frozen butter and lard and pulse until dough forms into large pea-sized pieces. With motor running, slowly add about half the ice water. Stop motor, then pulse. Add more water (about a tablespoon at a time) until dough just comes together and forms a ball.
- Tip pastry onto countertop. Divide into 2 big pieces (for a double-crust pie), or 3 smaller ones (for open-faced tarts and flans). Press dough into balls. Place on a large piece of plastic wrap and loosely cover. Roll them out into a flat disc, about 1-inch thick. Place in fridge or freezer to chill. (If using immediately, chill for at least 30 minutes in freezer or 1 hour in fridge. You may also store in freezer for later use.)
- Prepare flan: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease fluted tart pan or mini-pans. Line with parchment paper. Lightly dust countertop with flour and roll pastry into a large circle, about 1–2 inches bigger than your tart pan. Gently transfer pastry to pan. Press into grooves, trimming the edges as you go.
- Arrange asparagus artfully into prepared pan. Whisk eggs with cheeses, Dijon, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Carefully pour egg mixture over asparagus, so as not to disturb the vegetables.
- Place in the center rack of oven and bake until puffed, springy, and lightly golden, about 30–40 minutes. Place on a rack and cool in pan for at least 20 minutes before removing. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Image by Briana Goodall.