Serves 6

This is the Palmer family Christmas morning tradition. We like the tart at room temperature with salsa on the side, but it is also delicious warm and cheesy just out of the oven. Wrapping paper flies as the boys open their gifts, while Lisa and I enjoy our strong coffee and sit back to enjoy the show while we wait for the tart to come out of the oven.

  • 1 pound lean, smoky bacon (see Sidebar), cut into small pieces
  • 2 leeks, well-washed and trimmed, white with some green part, chopped
  • 10 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • 1½ cups (about 6 ounces) grated fontina cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ recipe Short Pastry for Tarts and Pies (recipe follows), fit into a 10-inch tart pan

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the bacon in a large frying pan over medium-low heat and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes or until all of the fat has rendered out and the bacon bits are crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a double layer of paper towel to drain.

Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Return the pan to medium heat and add the leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or just until the leeks have sweat their liquid. Using a slotted spoon to allow excess fat to drip off, transfer the leeks to a medium mixing bowl. Let cool slightly.

Add the eggs to the leeks and whisk vigorously to combine. Then, whisk in the crème fraîche followed by the cheese. When blended, season with salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mixture into the tart shell. Scatter the bacon bits over the top. Bake for about 1 hour or until the center is set and the top and the pastry are golden brown.

Set on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

SHORT PASTRY FOR TARTS AND PIES
Makes enough for 2 tart shells or 1 double-crust pie

The pastry recipe is a perfect all-purpose dough. You can add a teaspoon of sugar to the mix when making sweet pies or tarts; you can also use lard for meat-based mixes and a mixture of butter and vegetable shortening for a less-rich dough.

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
  • ½ cup ice water
  • Wondra flour for rolling the dough

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to aerate and blend.

Add the butter and, using quick on and off turns, process just until crumbly. With the motor running, slowly add the water and process just until the dough begins to pull into a ball. Scrape the dough from the processor bow, divide in half and form each piece into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill before rolling. The dough may also be frozen; thaw before using.

Place a light dusting of Wondra flour on a clean, flat work surface and on the rolling pin. Place the dough in the middle of the floured surface and, using a very light hand, begin rolling out from the center, lightly coating it and the rolling pin with Wondra if the dough wants to stick. Gently lift the rolling pin as you near the edge to prevent breakage. Roll until you have a circle about 2 inches larger than the size of your pan.

Lift the dough by gently folding it in half over the rolling pin. Then, place it, still folded, into the tart (or pie) pan. Carefully unfold it so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Try not to pull or stretch the dough or it will shrink away from the sides of the pan during baking. If the dough tears, gently pinch it back together or patch the hole with leftover dough. Smooth the dough down into the pan and up the sides with quick pressing movements. For a tart, trim off excess dough around the edge. For pies, leave the excess dough so you can crimp both the bottom and top together once the bottom shell is filled.

Use as directed in a specific recipe.