Starch-on-Starch Is Doubly Delicious: Savory Potato Tart

The instant I saw a New York Times article about a savory potato tart, I knew I wanted to try the recipe. I rarely cook, but I do make a fair number of savory tarts -- to me, it's not all that different from making a sweet tart. And a tart filled with potatoes? For a carb lover like me, this seemed like a genius idea. I decided to make the tart during our annual Shenandoah trip.

The recipe is quite simple. I made the crust in the food processor by mixing cold butter into flour and salt, and then drizzling in ice water until the dough came together. I divided the dough into two parts, formed each one into a disk, and wrapped it in plastic wrap before sticking it in the refrigerator. I made the crust a day in advance and kept it in a cooler during our drive to Shendoah.

The next day, I rolled out a disk of dough to form the bottom crust of the tart. This dough was challenging. Although I rolled it out without a problem, it was very soft and it tore easily as I was trying to transfer it into the pan. Also, I had brought along an 11-inch diameter tart pan as specified in the recipe, and I wish that I had brought a 9-inch or 10-inch pan instead. There was barely enough dough to cover the bottom of the pan, especially because I needed to leave an overhang to be able to seal the bottom and top crust together.

I did the best I could with the bottom crust and then I carefully arranged the potato filling in neat layers. The filling is simply very thinly sliced yellow-flesh potatoes mixed with crème fraîche, salt, pepper, nutmeg, minced garlic, and fresh thyme. I laid the rolled out top crust over the potatoes and tried to pinch the bottom and top crusts together, but it was difficult because I didn't have a lot of excess bottom crust to work with. Plus, as the recipe instructed, I scraped every drop of crème fraîche out of the bowl and into the tart; the tart was overflowing with crème fraîche and liquid was oozing out as I tried to crimp the crust together.
I managed to seal up the tart, cut some vents, and brush the top crust with a mixture of egg yolk and heavy cream. I placed the tart on top of a foil-lined baking sheet to bake, and I'm glad that I went to the trouble of using the foil; crème fraîche continued to leak out of the edges of the tart while it baked. I was afraid that all of the liquid seepage might cause the tart to get stuck to the pan, but I was able to remove it without any problem.

The baked tart was beautifully golden brown, and it sliced easily and cleanly. You could see neat stacked layers of potatoes speckled with herbs inside each slice of tart. And the potatoes were so good. They were tender but not mushy, and even though there was no butter in the filling, the potatoes tasted like they were infused with butter. The seasoning was spot on, and the tart crust and flaky and crisp. Despite the difficulties I had with the crust and the crème fraîche running all over the place, I thought that the tart was amazing and I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Recipe: "Savory Potato Tart" by David Tanis, from the October 17, 2014 New York Times.