By Nancy Pollard
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.
Maine Is Not All About Lobsters
Going to Maine for the summer seems to be on my Instagram feed a lot these days. It is an iconic, truly American vacation destination. One thinks immediately of lobsters, mussels and oysters galore, charming antiques stores, and New England bed-and-breakfasts. For some silly reason, I resisted Maine’s charms until I was reluctantly dragged by my sister-in-law, who now resides there. I was an instant convert, and the Resident Wine Maniac and I have returned happily several times—once even in February. To keep the Maine mood going, we make the lobster roll from our stained copy of Jasper White’s Lobster At Home. After lots of comparison shopping, we still vote his recipe to be the best—and we are not alone!
Fore Street Is a Must for Tomato Tart
But no matter the season, when we fly into Portland, we always, always eat at Fore Street. This unique restaurant is my idea of farm-to-table heaven. Its unassuming chef and crew are devoted to nose-to-tail cooking. Plus they feature Maine food products at their best. And while we certainly could, we never eat lobster there, in favor of too many other unusual seasonal delights, such as their delectable appetizer featuring monkfish liver. But our go-to dish, when we are lucky enough to find it available, is this divine tomato tart.
Do-It-Yourself Fore Street Tomato Tart
Sadly, I have no precise recipe for this superlative use of tomatoes. But from our culinary forensic investigation, we have unearthed a video describing the Fore Street tart (see link below), coupled with some Internet efforts to help us re-create this simple, but devilishly clever, dish. Fore Street has a local farm grow Jet Star tomatoes especially for the restaurant, but we have used Campari and something awfully similar from our local farmers markets (you can also use “cocktail tomatoes”). All yield great results. If you make your own puff pastry, terrific, as this is an easy and unusual use for it. If using a commercial version, I highly recommend DuFour over Pepperidge Farm. And although the voice-over on the video we found detects savory tastes like sage, she’s wrong: It is a little more like a combination of marjoram and thyme.
After trying out topping the tart with lightly whipped cream mixed with goat cheese, I switched the whipped cream to crème fraiche, with much better results. I use my Mauviel copper or Pillivuyt individual bakers, But you can use the De Buyer Blini pans, as they do at Fore Street. And please don’t try this with cherry tomatoes or even plum tomatoes: You’ll completely miss out on the unique flavor and texture of this dish. Home version is at top left and the Fore Street version below it. Please check out the somewhat informative video from The Cooking Channel as a start. The rewards are substantial!
Fore Street Tomato Tart
- 1 sheet of puff pastry, your own or store bought (I recommend DuFour) enough for four 5-to-6-inch circles
- 12 Jet Star or Campari tomatoes (or “cocktail tomatoes” or local equivalent)
- Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Good-quality sherry or balsamic vinegar
- Fleur de sel or fine sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh summer savory
- 8 ounces plain goat cheese, a whipped soft or log version
- 4 ounces crème fraiche
- Snippet of chives and savory
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Roll or unfold your chosen puff-pastry sheet so that you have about a 1/16-inch thickness.
- Using a guide to match the top circumference of your individual baking dish, cut four circles, ovals or squares.
- In each baker, add a tablespoon of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil and a half tablespoon of sherry vinegar or balsamico with a sprinkling of chopped summer savory, salt and pepper.
- Lightly stir this mixture and bake for a few minutes in a preheated oven.
- Add the tomatoes, cut side up so that the halves fill the dish. It usually takes four or five halves.
- Place your circle of puff pastry over the top and place in the oven.
- Bake until the pastry is puffy and golden. Check after 15 to 20 minutes.
- Invert onto small plates and add the following “mousse” to the top.
- Whip the goat cheese and crème fraiche together with the chopped herbs. It should have a mousse-like texture.
- If you refrigerate the mousse, let it warm up a bit before topping the tarts.
- Serve warm as soon as you put the “mousse” on the top of each tart.
- Jet Star is the preferred tomato at Fore Street, but I have had to resort to Campari and also a similar but unnamed tomato at my local farmers markets.
- You can used a loosely whipped cream instead of crème fraiche, but I found the crèeme fraiche preferable.
- No savory? Use a soft lemon thyme instead.