Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Tart with Cornmeal Millet Crust | A Sweet Spoonful
It’s been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I’d planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting “Pies for Dinner” cover, and I started to think about how long it’s been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I’m often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it’s a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I’d say that this savory tart is right up there.

The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it’s so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I’ve used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you’re looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little. 

Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Tart with Cornmeal Millet Crust | A Sweet Spoonful

Speaking of my cookbook, I’ve been getting quite a few questions lately about writing a second book and I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself but I’m also trying to honor the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year to just have a few dedicated months of quiet time without shaking things up on the work front. I’m almost done with my first quilt (I’m hand sewing the back right now, and it’s coming together pretty darn well if I do say so myself) and just learned how to use my new sewing machine this week. I’ve managed to weasel myself into a book club that I’m really excited about, and have been starting to push myself in running distances again. So yes, while I’m definitely thinking about what book 2 will hold and have started to make lists and draft ideas, I’m trying to take some time to not push, push, push too quickly as well.

In fact, I just finished a book that talks about that constant push, push, push forward that so many of us do (whether it’s in regards to work or family or personal goals) called A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit. This little book of essays is the first I’ve read of Solnit’s, and I ended up doing a lot of underlining and note-taking; there’s some good stuff in here. The sections I was most struck by were in “The Blue of Distance” when Solnit describes that longing for the future that we all tend to actively do or experience at some point. She uses mountains in the distance as a metaphor, describing “the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away … the color of where you can never go … the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in.”

Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Tart with Cornmeal Millet Crust | A Sweet Spoonful

It’s the inverse of “wherever you go, there you are”: However far you go, the distance (and its allure) is still…distant. As soon as I’d written a book, I discovered I was 0% of my way through Book 2, and then there are the dreams of buying a house or eventually starting a family with Sam. And so forth, and then a few more still.

To this Solnit notes, “For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints to the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs. Something is always far away.”

If you’re like me, you often can’t stop yourself from running out to one horizon or other, trying to reach it by making these fantastic lists of the things you want to achieve and putting them in their right order. There’s an allure to the blue, a call toward that horizon that’s actually pretty hard not to heed. I’ll probably be bad at ignoring it tomorrow, I’m sure that I’ll spend much of next week running like Kip Keino out to some horizon or other, but today I’ve somehow managed to be pretty happy to look out at it all from inside my own windows, to put out of mind (for now) the Next Big Thing that I can already hear calling, and just appreciate as it is, and where it is, that singularly beautiful blue (with, yes, a little bit of Seattle grey).

There will be time to strike out again for those faint shapes on the horizon, but this afternoon is going to be given to hand-stitching the back of a quilt, drinking homemade hot chocolate, and taking just a minute to talk about how delicious this tart was. It’s something worth going back to.

Minor note: As written in my cookbook, I pre-bake this crust for 15 minutes before adding the filling but when I made it this time around I forgot and it was completely fine, so I’ve removed that step from the recipe below. Now, an even easier tart!

Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Inactive time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Total time: 2 hrs 5 mins

Regarding the whole wheat flour in this tart, you can use virtually any flour you have at home. I often use spelt flour, but I’ve used everything from barley flour to white-whole wheat flour with great success; this is a very, very forgiving recipe.

From: Whole Grain Mornings

Ingredients

Crust:

1/2 cup (65g) fine or medium-grind cornmeal
3/4 cup (90g) whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, plus more for the pan
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1/4 cup (45g) raw millet

Filling:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (50g) minced shallot (about 3 medium shallots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch freshly-ground black pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into small pieces

Instructions

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with 1-inch sides and a removable bottom. Using a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the cornmeal, flour, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (alternatively, you can use a pastry blender or your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough starts to look like wet, clumpy sand. It’s ready if a small piece holds together when pressed between your fingers. If it still seems too crumbly, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out into a large bowl and mix in the millet using a fork.  Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and sauté the shallots until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the milk, crème fraîche, eggs, capers, dill, salt and pepper.  Spoon the shallot mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the crust; arrange the salmon across the top evenly. Pour the custard mixture on top.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is set, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool 15-20 minutes. Unmold the tart onto a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

Comments

  1. mcs3000

    Beautiful post, Megan. I love your cookbook.

    1. megang

      Thank you, sweet Mary.

  2. Stacy

    This is a lovely post, and I was excited to see it - I was just thinking of you this morning (really!) and wondering how you are of late. I'm glad to hear that you're so well situated in this thoughtful, not-running-too-fast season. And lucky as I've been to eat a cornmeal crusted tart from your kitchen (the mushroom variety!), I know very well that I ought to be making this in my own home soon. xoxo

    1. megang

      Hi, Stacy! Oh thank you so much. Sam and I were just talking about you guys last week as it were ... yes this is definitely a not-too-fast season for me which has been really, really nice. And I'd forgotten we made that when you guys were here -- I love the mushroom version! Hope all is well in SF; I hear you guys have gotten some crazy rain lately, too. xox + have a great week.

  3. Elisabetta

    Megan!
    I have your book and love it -- I made this tart a couple of weeks back and well, while the filling is absolutely delicious, I must say that the crust was really what attracted the most compliments :)
    Looking forward to try the version with greens and Gruyère.

    Hugs from an Italian in Belgium -- and cheers to setting and reaching new objectives, but also to staying in with hot chocolate :)

    1. megang

      Hi, Elisabetta-
      So glad you're enjoying the book ... and the tart. The crust really is so delicious, isn't it? You'll love the version with greens and certainly feel free to do a version with whatever you have in the fridge that you're excited about. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. ~Megan

  4. Joyce

    Longtime reader but commenting for the first time :) I recently discovered Rebecca Solnit as well, and the more I read of her writing, the more amazed I am. Also highly recommend "The Faraway Nearby", and in a slightly different vein but equally powerful, "Men Explain Things to Me."

    On a food-related note, I had earmarked this tart a long time ago, so I think this is the push I needed to go make it!

    1. megang

      Hi, Joyce: Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I will absolutely look into more Solnit as I've so enjoyed this first go-around with her. I've heard The Faraway Nearby is wonderful. And of course, I hope you enjoy the tart. Have a great week, Megan

  5. brittney

    Hi Megan, I made this last week and loved it. The crust was delicious. I had some salt-cured capers my husband had given me for Xmas and used them here. They really shined. Loving your cookbook! Brittney

    1. megang

      Hi, Brittney- I'm so glad you liked the recipe! And as I mentioned, you can use that crust for any number of different tarts, so feel free to have fun with your filling next time. Thanks so much for the sweet comment, Megan

  6. Lisa Waldschmidt

    This would be great made as individual tarts alongside a salad for a luncheon. I love the point about "the blue tints to the next beyond" easy to understand but so to remind yourself.

    1. megang

      I love the idea of doing them as small tarts, Lisa. They would be great (and so pretty) that way. xo

  7. sarah | little house pantry

    This looks delicious! I'm so intimidated by crusts, but I have some smoked salmon in my freezer from a trip to Alaska a few summers ago. Maybe I'll give it a go!

    1. megang

      Sarah: Now's the time! :)

  8. francesca

    Smoked salmon is one of my favorite things on earth. Never thought to add it to a savory tart <3

  9. kristie {birch and wild}

    I hope you do write a second book because your fist is one of my favorites! I use it every weekend.
    This crust is the best. I have made it twice and I can't get enough!

    1. megang

      Yay, Kristie! I'm so glad to hear it (and yes, I love the crust recipe, too; it's a favorite around here). Have a great weekend, Megan

  10. Meg @MegBollenback.com

    Just now reading this post. The blue distance comments really stood out to me...I can completely relate to that feeling and like the way the author describes it. It's so true that it's hard to not heed it when it calls you, but sometimes you have to decide not to, even if only for a little while. Kudos to you for enjoying the here and now.

  11. Renee

    Made this today---delicious and our guests ate the last bite! Yum. I will make it again, many times!

    The egg and milk mix did overflow the tart pan as I was putting it into the oven. Any advice about this?

    1. megang

      Hi, Renee- Glad you enjoyed! Just so I understand: Did it overflow out of the bottom of the tart pan or over the top more as a function of the inevitable jostle that happens when you put in oven? If the latter, put the tart on a baking sheet (always do this anyway) and put it in the oven BEFORE you pour the milk mixture into the shell. Then you can pull it out while it's on the oven shelf and there will be minimum jostle. This should help. If it just simply overflowed, sounds like we may have slightly different sized tart pans, and you'll just end up reserving a tiny bit of your milk liquid and not using the whole thing. Make sense?

  12. Renee

    Thanks Megan! Yes, it was the latter as you described. I'll do as you suggest next time and pour in the mix once I get the tart balanced in the oven.

    Thanks again, I much enjoy your book and blog. We also keep a batch of your whole grain pancake mix on hand...

  13. Leigh

    Megan, I made your smoked salmon tart tonight. Thank you! My copy of Whole Grain Mornings is getting dog-eared as I plow through it. This crust is simply marvelous.

    I, too, recently found Rebecca Solnit and A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The book came to me via a bookstore in Cambodia, and I devoured it (with similar a-has! and underlinings and note-takings) on the plane ride home to Seattle this past January, a perfect bookend to a period of challenging but soul-stirring travel. To salmon, and to book/author serendipity.

  14. Amrita

    You had me at "no-roll crust"...and I'm such a big fan of salmon, smoked or otherwise. My Uni housemate had this smoked salmon and mustard green pasta she used to pull out of her repertoire at times, but we never thought of a tart! Thanks for this!

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