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Recipe: Puff pastry perfect canvas for BLT

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                A crunchy BLT tart with ripe, end-of-the-summer tomatoes, crumbled candied bacon and a thicket of baby lettuces greening the top.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    A crunchy BLT tart with ripe, end-of-the-summer tomatoes, crumbled candied bacon and a thicket of baby lettuces greening the top.

I may eat my weight in BLT sandwiches all tomato season long, but there’s still room for variations on the theme. Take, for example, this crunchy BLT tart with ripe, end-of-the-summer tomatoes, crumbled candied bacon and a thicket of baby lettuces greening the top.

This recipe was inspired by an excellent roasted tomato tart created by my colleague Alexa Weibel. In her version, dollops of fresh ricotta cheese and drizzles of pesto enrich a base of sliced tomatoes nestled in puff pastry.

I substituted bacon and lettuce for the ricotta and pesto to make a tart with a sweeter, porkier flavor profile that’s still just as juicy and buttery.

Using purchased puff pastry keeps thing easy. Draining the tomatoes for 20 minutes before assembling the tart keeps the pastry from developing soggy-bottom syndrome, which means it will get nice and crisp in the oven.

THE PROCESS

First, you’ll need to track down and defrost one package of puff pastry. I used a 14-ounce packet, but if yours is slightly larger or smaller, that’s fine, too; anything between 12 ounces and 1 pound will work. If you have a choice, go for the bigger package because more puff pastry is always better.

Then there’s the candied bacon, which is worth making all by itself. Sweet, peppery and crunchy-chewy, it’s just as perfect for brunch as it is glistening on top of this tart.

To make it, heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. (You can skip the parchment, but it makes clean up much easier.)

Spread 8 ounces bacon strips in the pan, and sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and some freshly ground black pepper. (Don’t use thick-cut bacon here, it never gets quite as crisp as the thinner kind.) Bake until bubbling and deeply browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the cooked bacon to a wire rack until it’s cool enough to crumble, and raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

While the bacon is baking and cooling, drain the tomatoes. Slice a pound of small, thick-skinned tomatoes, preferably in a rainbow of colors. Plum and grape tomatoes work well here because they have more flesh and less pastry-soaking juice. Lay the slices out on a clean kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels and season them with salt and pepper. Let them drain until the bacon is ready.

Place the puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper and roll it into a 10-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer pastry and parchment to a baking sheet.

Prick the pastry all over with a fork, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Within the border, spread 2 tablespoons creme fraiche, sour cream, mascarpone, mayonnaise or Greek yogurt over the pastry. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

Lay the drained tomatoes over the cheese. Crumble the bacon on top and sprinkle with another tablespoon or so of Parmesan.

Bake until the pastry is deeply golden all over, 30 to 35 minutes.

FINAL TOUCHES

Transfer the tart to a wire rack for at least 10 minutes to cool slightly. Just before serving, scatter 1 to 2 cups of baby lettuces over the top (or use a combination of baby lettuce mixed with herbs like basil and mint). Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately, before the lettuces wilt.

This tart is at its best within two or three hours of baking, but I will admit to polishing off leftovers cold from the fridge the next day. The pastry had gotten soft and the lettuces, a little wilted.

But even so, it was a satisfying taste of summer in all of its evanescent, tomato-rich glory.

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