Patricia Wells' Leek Tart Recipe

April 26, 2020

When I first got interested in cooking back in the 90's and decided to go to cooking school, food writer Patricia Wells was one of the more well-known professionals in the business.  The Food Network was just getting started and Ina Garten wasn't yet a household name. Chefs and food writers became known though publishing books, not starring in TV shows.  Wells' book, Bistro Cooking, was one of the first cookbooks I bought and this recipe comes from there.

While savory tarts are standard fare in French pastry shops, at the time it seemed foreign and sophisticated to me.  The truth is, there is nothing fancy about it.  The filling of leeks, cheese, eggs, and ham, surrounded by a delicious, flaky crust, is pure comfort food. I suppose the crust, called pate brisee in French, might sound a little scary, but don't let it deter you.  The pastry gets almost completely covered by the filling and, if you get some holes here and there, patch them up and no one will ever know the better!  Just remember, the key to any kind of pastry dough with lots of butter in it is simple:  handle it as little as possible so you don't melt the chunks of butter with the heat from your hands.  Bits of butter scattered throughout the pastry are what create delectable flakiness.

Leek Tart (Flamiche aux Poireaux)

1 recipe Pate Brisee (see recipe below)

12 small leeks (about 3 pounds)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

¼ cup crème fraiche

4 slices (about 3 ounces) Parma ham, coarsely chopped (no more than 1/8” thick) or thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped

1 cup (about 3 ounces) freshly grated Gruyere cheese

Prepare the pastry shell: 

Roll out the dough to line a 10 ½” tart pan.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan.  Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Prepare the filling: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Trim the leeks at the root.  Cut off and discard the fibrous, dark green portion.  Split the leeks lengthwise for easier cleaning, and rinse well in cold water until no grit appears.  Coarsely chop the leeks. 

Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over low heat.  Add the leeks, salt and pepper to taste and cook, covered, until the leeks are very soft but not browned, about 20 minutes.  If the leeks have given up an excessive amount of liquid, drain them in a colander.

Combine the eggs and crème fraiche in a medium size bowl and mix until thoroughly blended.  Add the leeks and mix again.  Reserve ¼ cup each of the ham and the cheese to sprinkle on top of the tart.  Mix the rest into the leek mixture. 

Pour the leek mixture into the prepared pastry shell.  Sprinkle with the reserved ham, and then the cheese.  Season generously with pepper. 

Bake until nicely browned, about 45 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Serves 4 - 6 

Pate Brisee

1 – 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons ice water

Place 1 cup of flour, butter, and salt in a food processor.  Process just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds.  Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together, about 6 – 8 times.  Do not let it form a ball.  Transfer the pastry to waxed paper; flatten the dough into a disk.  If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle it with additional flour, incorporating 1 tablespoon at a time.  Wrap the pastry in waxed paper.  Refrigerate for a least 1 hour.

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