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Maine Is Not All About Lobsters
Going to Maine for the summer seems to be on my Instagram feed a lot these days. It is an iconic, truly American vacation destination. One thinks immediately of lobsters, mussels and oysters galore, charming antique stores, and New England Bed & Breakfasts. For some silly reason, I resisted Maine’s charms until I was reluctantly dragged by my sister-in-law, who now resides there. I was an instant convert, and the Resident Wine Maniac and I have returned happily several times – once even in February. To keep the Maine mood going, we make the lobster roll from our stained copy of Jasper White’s Lobster At Home. After lots of comparison shopping, we still vote his recipe to be the best – and we are not alone!
But no matter the season, when we fly into Portland, we always, always eat at Fore Street Grill. This unique restaurant is my idea of farm-to-table heaven. Its unassuming chef and crew are devoted to nose-to-tail cooking. Plus they feature Maine food products at their best. And certainly we could, but we never eat lobster there, in favor of too many other unusual seasonal delights, such as their delectable appetizer featuring monkfish liver. But our go-to dish, when we are lucky enough to find it available, is this divine tomato tart.
Do-It-Yourself Fore Street Tomato Tart
Sadly, I have no precise recipe for this superlative use of tomatoes. But from our culinary forensic investigation, we have unearthed a video describing the Fore Street tart, coupled with some Internet efforts to help us re-create this simple, but devilishly clever, dish. Fore Street has a local farm grow Jet Star tomatoes especially for the restaurant, but we have used Campari and something awfully similar from our local farmers’ markets. All yield great results. If you make your own puff pastry – terrific – as this is an easy and unusual use for it. If using a commercial version, I highly recommend DuFour over Pepperidge Farm. And although the video voice-over detects savory tastes like sage, she’s wrong – it is a little more like a combination of marjoram and thyme. After trying out topping the tart with lightly whipped cream mixed with goat cheese, I switched to crème fraiche, with much better results. I use my Mauviel copper or Pillivuyt individual bakers, But you can use the De Buyer Blini pans, as they do at Fore Street. And please don’t try this with cherry tomatoes or even plum tomatoes – you’ll completely miss out on the unique flavor and texture of this dish. Home version is on the left and the Fore Street Grill version is on the right. Please check out the somewhat informative video from The Cooking Channel as a start. The rewards are substantial!
- 1 sheet of puff pastry - your own or store bought (Irecommend DuFour) enough for four 5-6 inch circles
- 12 Jet Star or Campari tomatoes (or local equivalent)
- Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Good quality Sherry Vinegar or Balsamico
- Fleur de Sel or Fine Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1-2 tbs fresh summer savory
- 8 oz plain goat cheese, a whipped soft or log version
- 4 oz creme fraiche
- snippet of chives and savory
- Roll or unfold your chosen puff pastry sheet.so that you have about a 1/16 inch thickness..
- Using a guide to match the top circumference of your individual baking dish, cut four circles, ovals or squares.
- In each baker, add a tbs of your favorite EVOO and a half tbs of sherry vinegar or balsamico with a sprinkling of chopped summer savory, salt and pepper.
- Lightly stir this mixture and bake for a few minutes in a preheated oven (350F)
- Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and remove seeds and juice, but keep the halves in one piece.
- Add the tomatoes, cut side up so that the halves fill the dish - it usually takes four or five halves.
- Place your circle of puff pastry over the top (I prick mine with a fork) and put in oven.
- Bake until the pastry is puffy and golden. Check after 15-20 minutes.
- Invert onto small plates and add the following "mousse" to the top.
- Whip the goat cheese together with the crème fraîche with the chopped herbs: it should have a mousse like texture.
- If you refrigerate it, let it warm up a bit before topping the tarts.
- Serve warm as soon as you put the "mousse" on the top of each tart.
- Jet Star is the preferred tomato at Fore Street, but I have had to resort to Campari and also a similar but unnamed tomato at my local farmer's markets.
- You can used a loosely whipped cream instead of creme fraiche, but I found that the crème fraîche is preferable.
- No savory? Use a soft lemon thyme instead.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.