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medieval shallot-ricotta tart recipe

jousting? ::::

The first time I went to  a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament theatre was when I was just out of high school acting as a chaperone on a high school band trip. Besides cheering on our favorite jousting or sword-fighting knights, the most salient memory I have is of the high school boys in the group loving that they could call for the waitresses, also known in medieval dinner theatre parlance as serving wenches, to refill drinks. “Hey, wench!” the boys sitting nearby would holler raising heavy empty goblets at bustier-garbed young women scurrying down each aisle. These women obviously knew the type well and knew what they were getting into with this job. Not a single one winced at the quasi-catcalls.

All in all, the food was fair, the jousting and sword fighting were full of rivalry from the audience and participants, and the half-time show of dancing horses enjoyable without any fear of a wardrobe malfunctions inappropriate for children’s eyes. The food was of Renaissance Faire level: the roasted meat, the starch, the soup. I was impressed that the plates were soap and water clean, not licked clean from the last dinner guests and reused, as they would have been in true medieval times.

I realize that this organization is a chain (California, Georgia, Illinois, to name a few “castles” participating), not exactly equipped for or being visited by clientele who would want much more than what the simple menu offers. But I couldn’t help but think of a Medieval Times menu reboot when my sister gave me a new cookbook for my birthday last month: The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy  by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. While these authors have nothing to do with Medieval Times, and actually have put together a well-researched book on medieval recipes with adaptations for the modern kitchen translated from medieval culinary transcripts from Old French and Italian, there are quite a few recipes I could help but wonder would be quite fitting on a Medieval Times menu. How about an Orange Omelet for Harlots and Ruffians? Or perhaps a whole Stuffed Suckling Pig? Maybe a Spiced Plum Mousse with Honey for dessert? These might just be a little too much for the taste buds of the typical chain restaurant sampler, likely more interested in the fanfare of the blunt-ended jousters.

That didn’t stop me, however, always interested in trying something new. I have the Orange Omelet marked for later sampling, and I decided to first try the medieval Shallot-Ricotta Tart. It’s more family-friendly in our household than many of the recipes, even though we could consider Peach and Grub a bit on the Ruffian side of things at times.

I was pleased with the result: it is less like a quiche and more like a shallot-heavy cheese tart, dense and oniony sweet. The kids ate a little, I ate the most, and Eat had some. This is a good solid dish to bring to a potluck, a friend’s dinner party, or even something to serve thinly sliced as hors d’oeuvres at your own event. And if you’re feeling really authentic, throw on a Phrigan cap or henin and serve. Not a wench in sight.

One year ago: chocolate pots de crème

Two years ago: curried cauliflower and green beans

UPDATE: My blog and this recipe were mentioned in the Ocala Style magazine, page 71, January 2014 issue!


medieval shallot-ricotta tart recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • FOR THE PATE BRISEE: 1¾ cups (250g) flour
  • 9 tablespoons (125g) cold butter
  • ⅓ cup (10 cl) water, approx
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • FOR THE FILLING: 1 generous pound (500g) of shallots
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 5 ounces (142g) diced pancetta
  • 10 ounces (283g) ricotta, mixed with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 5 threads of saffron
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • a few leaves of fresh basil, in chiffonade
  1. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 10-inch (25 cm) tart pan. I used my Springform pan.
  2. Line your tart pan with parchment on the bottom.
  3. Cut butter into small pieces, then rub into the flour using your fingers. Rub until the mixture looks like sawdust.
  4. Dissolve the salt in half of the water, then add to the flour mixture.
  5. FOR THE PATE BRISEE: Combine the flour and water with your fingertips, gently and without overworking, just until dough comes together.
  6. Add more water if needed to create a cohesive dough without being too wet.
  7. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before using. (I chilled mine for 2 days, because it was the only time I had to make the tart. It rolled out without a problem.)
  8. FOR THE FILLING: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Set chilled pate brisee on countertop to warm slightly.
  9. Mince the shallots.
  10. Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, and cook the onions and pancetta for a few minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent and pancetta browns slightly. Cool slightly.
  11. While the shallots and pancetta are cooking, mix the ricotta and egg well, and add the saffron crumbled between your fingers.* Add the salt.
  12. Roll out the pastry to about 12-inches in diameter and place into lined tart pan. If using a Springform, the dough should reach about 2 cm up the sides to accommodate the filling.
  13. Mix the slightly cooled shallot-pancetta mixture into the cheese-egg mixture. Set aside.
  14. Line the pastry with foil and add pie weights (rice, dried beans, pennies).
  15. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and back for 5 more minutes.
  16. Remove from oven, add the filling, and bake for 35 to 50 minutes, checking at 35 minutes to make sure the tart is not burning. I baked my tart for 38 minutes, crust golden brown and shallot-ricotta filling just starting to become golden. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with the chiffonade of basil.
* If your ricotta is really crumbly, you'll have to smooth it out in a blender or food processor. The mixture doesn't have to be entirely smooth, but you don't want large chunks of ricotta. Regarding the saffron, to bring out the flavor, foil toast it before adding. See my post on saffron-fennel crackers for the discussion. It's not necessary but it may give the dish a little oomph.




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