Oyster Tarts with Leeks and Country Ham
Pretty, delicious, easy to make, and southern to their core, these savory tarts with crunchy cornmeal crusts are packed with salty oysters flavored with country ham and herbs in a creamy sauce.
- Cornmeal Crust
- Unbleached Flour - 3/4 cup
- Cornmeal - 1-1/2 teaspoons
- Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoons (2 ounces), chilled and cubed
- Ice Water - 2-2/3 tablespoons
- Pepper Sauces
- Red Bell Pepper - 1, seeded, deribbed, and diced
- Green Bell Pepper - 1, seeded, deribbed, and diced
- Olive Oil - 1/2 cup
- Oyster Filling
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Country Ham - 1 cup (4 ounces) minced (alt. prosciutto)
- Leek - 2 cups, julienned, white part only
- Dry Sherry - 1/4 cup
- Flour - 2 tablespoons
- Heavy Cream - 1 cup
- Thyme - 1 tablespoon, minced, stems discarded
- Oysters - 2 pints, small, well drained
- Fresh Tarragon - 1 tablespoon, chopped
To make the crusts: In a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, and cubed butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the motor running, slowly pour in the water. Process until the dough gathers into a single mass. Remove from processor and form into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly oil or spray six 4-inch tart pans. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out as thin as it will go on a floured board; it will spread into about a 15-inch circle. Using the tart pans as templates, cut circles from the dough and press gently into the tart pans. Prick all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until crisp and browned. Remove and set aside.
To make the pepper sauces: Put the peppers in separate small saute pans or skillets and divide the olive oil between the pans. Heat over medium-high heat until the peppers wilt and soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree each pepper mixture separately and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Put the red and green purees in separate squeeze bottles.
To make the filling: In a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the country ham and saute until browned. Pour in the sherry, avert your face, tilt the pan, and let the alcohol flame off. When the flames have subsided, cook until reduced by half. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute as it cooks. Whisk in the heavy cream and thyme. Reduce the heat to mediumlow and simmer for 1 minute, whisking until thickened. The sauce may be made to this point and set aside to cool, then refrigerated. Rewarm the sauce before continuing if it has been refrigerated.
To the warm sauce, add the drained oysters and leeks. Stir and simmer until the edges of the oysters begin to curl. Place the tart shells on individual plates. Divide the filling between the tart shells, evenly distributing the oysters. Sprinkle with chopped tarragon. Drizzle red and green pepper purees over the plates.