During my years catering private parties and weddings I would get numerous requests for “something with smoked salmon.” This popular tart originally featured wild smoked salmon, baked in a buttery crust with a creamy filling and peppery watercress for sharpness. It was the ultimate crowd pleaser and deserved another airing, albeit with some updates.
Good wild salmon is expensive and hard to come by now, so I have replaced it with smoked trout, a much more sustainable and affordable option.
Lately, I have been buying small, whole smoked trout from Braun’s seafood market. They are always in stock for just a few dollars apiece and I keep a couple in my fridge for salads and smoked fish dips. As I suspected, the mild and tasty flesh was an excellent substitute for salmon and thus my signature tart was reborn. Make full-sized for a spring lunch or serve individual versions as an hors d’ oeuvre at your spring festivities.
Smoked Trout, Scallion and Watercress Tart
The Tart Base
Pre-baking the tart shell ensures that the crust will not be soggy. Resting the dough at several stages helps the fat to solidify after handling and hold its shape better. Lining the crust with parchment and then weighting with dried beans prevents the shell from bubbling up and collapsing during baking. If you plan on baking regularly, you can purchase reusable ceramic beans for this purpose. You will need a 11-inch tart pan with a removable base.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1⁄2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. iced water
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process briefly. Add the butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water, making sure it is evenly mixed. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and quickly shape into a round. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least one hour.
Remove chilled dough from the fridge about 30 minutes before rolling. On a floured surface, roll out to a 14-inch thin round (you will have extra pastry). Gently press the dough into the pan, trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang and fold this back on edge of the crust. Press into the sides and then trim off any excess. This will give the shell a sturdier double rim and make it easier to remove for the pan once the tart is baked. Let the crust rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before moving on to the next stage. Lightly prick the base of the crust with a fork, line with a 12-inch circle of baking parchment and fill with dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake on the middle shelf of a preheated 365-degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and place bake in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up. Do not let the crust brown at this stage. Remove and set aside to cool. You will fill and bake the finished tart in the pan.
It is best to use whole smoked trout, but packaged filets can be substituted. Purchase the watercress that comes in bunches stored in fresh water. Southold IGA sells this. If you can only find the prewashed bags be sure the leaves look fresh and dark green in color and have not yellowed at all. Once baked, it is essential to let the tart cool to room temperature and firm up before slicing.
1 small smoked trout
6 scallions, sliced thinly crosswise
1 small shallot, minced
3 Tbsp. finely minced parsley
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. finely grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 organic eggs
large bunch of watercress, washed & dried
2 tsp. butter
a few sprigs fresh thyme, finely minced (about 1 tsp.)
fine sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
Remove the skin from the trout and gently pull the flesh away from the bones. It should come away easily. Flake the fish, checking to make sure there are no small bones remaining. I pick it over at least twice to be sure.
Melt the butter in a small skillet, add the shallots and a small pinch of salt and cook gently for two to three minutes, until translucent. Set aside to cool.
Whisk the half and half, eggs, 2 Tbsp. of parsley, parmesan and salt and pepper together in a bowl.
Place the cooked tart shell on a large, heavy baking sheet. Cover the base of the shell with the smoked trout pieces. Sprinkle the minced shallots over the fish and cover with a layer of sliced scallions. Gently pour the egg, parmesan, and parsley mixture over the base, covering the surface evenly, then add a layer of watercress (leaves only). Gently press the watercress down into the egg mixture until it is nearly covered.
Bake on the middle shelf of a 365-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until just set, but still slightly creamy. Remove from oven and cool in the tart pan for at least one hour. Gently remove from the pan, place on a serving platter, and surround with additional watercress. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the tart. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut generous slices and serve with the salad. Remaining tart will keep, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for two days.
3 Tbsp. light olive oil
3 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp. of honey
salt and pepper
Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside. If using regular lemon juice, add an extra ½ tsp. of honey.
Washed and dried salad leaves, such as butter lettuce, watercress, arugula and endive.
Half a Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced
Handful of toasted and chopped pecan nuts
Toss the salad leaves with the honey-lemon dressing and top with pecan pieces and apple slices.