Celebrate the arrival of spring asparagus with this tart. Serve it as easy-fancy hors d'oeuvres, or tucked next to a green salad for brunch or lunch. It starts with a buttery puff pastry base and a thin layer of egg, melty Gruyère cheese, and diced ham. A tumble of tender spears of roasted asparagus top the tart and sing the song of spring with their sweet and earthy, vegetal flavor.
Thin for the Win
There's no need to precook the asparagus, but you'll want to start with the thinnest asparagus you can find so that it cooks quickly. If you can only find thick asparagus, cut each spear in half lengthwise and lay them cut-side down in the egg base. And speaking of the egg base, we added a few teaspoons of Dijon mustard to the custard, which gives it a doubly savory flavor that complements the ham and cheese especially well. Served warm or at room temperature, the tart is tasty either way and will disappear quickly.
Ham, Asparagus & Gruyère Tart
Serves 8 to 12
(14- to 17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry (preferably all-butter), thawed in the refrigerator
asparagus, preferably thin
whole or 2% milk
freshly ground black pepper
small-dice cooked ham (about 5 ounces)
grated Gruyère cheese, divided (about 4 ounces)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Meanwhile, trim the woody stems from the asparagus. Pat the asparagus dry with paper towels. Halve lengthwise if the asparagus is thick; set aside. If your puff pastry is folded, let sit out at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften slightly.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Move the parchment to a work surface. Unfold the puff onto the parchment (if your package has 2 sheets, place them side by side, slightly overlapping, so that they fit the baking sheet, and press together). Using a rolling pin, roll it into a rectangle about the size of the baking sheet. Transfer the puff, still on the parchment, to the baking sheet.
Carefully roll about 1/2 inch of each side in on itself toward the center to form the outer rim of the tart. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork so that the pastry doesn’t puff up. Bake until the edges puff and the top is a pale golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the eggs, milk, Dijon, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Sprinkle the crust evenly with the ham and 1/2 of the cheese. Slowly pour the egg mixture evenly over the crust. Lay the asparagus spears over the egg mixture in a single layer. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake until the edges are puffed and the bottom is crisp and golden-brown, 35 to 40 minutes. If there is moisture on the top of the tart, blot it gently away with paper towels. Cut into pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.
Puff pastry: Look for ready-made puff pastry in the freezer section, particularly those brands made with all butter rather than oil. They will have a richer flavor, and the dough will produce nice layers of pastry. For best results, defrost in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and up to 1 day before using.
Storage: This recipe is best eaten the day it's made. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Rewarm in a 325°F oven until warmed through.