When you think “tartlets,” what’s the first recipe that comes to mind? Perhaps something fruity, like a portable, sweet strawberry pie, or maybe a decadent treat, like little, flaky cups of chocolate mousse and whipped cream?
While sugary fillings might seem like the obvious match for buttery tartlets, Claus Meyer—renowned Danish chef, gastronomic entrepreneur, and co-founder of Copenhagen's Noma—shares a delicious savory rendition in his newly released cookbook The Nordic Kitchen: One Year of Family Cooking ($19; amazon.com).
“In the 1700s, the term ‘tartlets’ referred only to sweet dishes, and it was not until the subsequent century that savory recipes were introduced," he writes. "Tartlets had their heyday in the 20th century, when they were served between the appetizer and main course at the great dinners of the bourgeoisie, but soon they became a beloved part of menus at festive occasions at all levels of society.”
If you don’t have the time to make croustades or tartlet shells using a proper butter-based pastry, the chef recommends using toasted bread instead. Put your summer veggies to good use—and wow all of your dinner guests—using the recipe below.
Tartlets with Summer Vegetables in Béchamel Sauce
Makes 12 tartlets
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups warm chicken stock
1 organic egg yolk
3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
4 white asparagus
4 green asparagus
1/2 summer cabbage
1 lb 2 oz peas in the pod (yielding about 2⁄3 to 1 cup peas when podded)
1/2 handful of sweet cicely or chervil, freshly torn
12 tartlet shells
For the Tartlet Shells
2 to 3 tbsp standard canola oil
10 1/2 oz puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1. To make the tartlet shells: You will need 24 tartlet pans or molds, each about 4 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Oil 12 on the inside and 12 on the outside thoroughly with the canola oil.
2. Roll the puff pastry out thinly on a floured work surface. Cut out 12 circles about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches in diameter and use them to line the internally oiled pans. Make sure the pastry is pressed in firmly, with no air bubbles caught under the dough, then place the externally oiled pans on top of the pastry shells, to keep the dough pressed against the bottom pans. Let them rest in the refrigerator for 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Bake the tartlet shells in a preheated oven at 400°F for 12 to 14 minutes. Let them cool slightly in the pans before gently turning them out.
4. To make the filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring, to make a smooth roux. Add the warm chicken stock and stir vigorously while it comes to a boil to stop any lumps from forming. Let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes.
5. Mix the egg yolk and cream together, then whisk into the sauce and simmer for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Pass the sauce through a sieve and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon zest and juice. The sauce should be light, creamy, and velvety.
6. Peel the white asparagus and break off the woody stem ends, but simply rinse the green ones in cold water before breaking off the stem ends. Slice the asparagus and cabbage finely, shell the peas, and add all the vegetables to the sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, remove from the heat, and mix the freshly torn sweet cicely or chervil into the stewed vegetables.
7. To assemble the tartlets: Warm the tartlet shells in a preheated oven at 400°F for 2 minutes, then fill them with the stewed vegetables. Serve the tartlets as an appetizer or a light main course, depending on the number of diners.
Tip: The tartlet shells can also be made with “dull pastry,” which is puff pastry that has been kneaded so that the butter layers have been removed, typically the rekneaded trimmings left over from cutting out the dough. Pastry cases made with “dull pastry” will keep their shape a little better, but they are not quite as crisp and flaky.
The Nordic Kitchen by Claus Meyer, Mitchell Beazley 2016, Photo by Anders Schonnemann