From Too Many Chefs -

May 3, 2005
Blue Cheese, Artichoke, and Onion... Loaf?

There are times when I wish I'd taken pictures of a recipe and this is one of them. I had no idea exactly what I was going to do with this recipe until just before I made it, but it turned out well.

The filling is based on a filling I do for a spinach ricotta pie. I use onions and artichokes to provide the bulk and blue cheese instead of feta to accent the ricotta. The unique aspect of this dish is the way I ended up using the puff pastry. There's very little puff in the final product, but lots of layers and flavor.

I don't know if you use puff pastry, but I buy those tri-fold sheets of puff from the freezer section. The most difficult thing about working with this pastry is unfolding it and working with the fold lines. You get two sheets in each package and two shots at unfolding the pastry without breaking it into three strips. Here's the good news - you can mess up one of the sheets and snap it into three sections for this recipe, but you have to keep the other intact.

Blue Cheese, Artichoke, and Onion... Loaf?
2 sheets puff pastry (9" x 9", approximately)
1 1/2 white onions, sliced thin
2 9 oz. packages frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and moisture drained)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown spicy mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (or two teaspoons dried)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
4 oz. blue cheese (I used a nice Maytag blue)
3 eggs
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste (watch the salt in the blue cheese)

Defrost the puff pastry just so you can unfold it without breaking the sheets apart. Pinch the seams together to strengthen them on one sheet. Roll the sheet to make it one solid piece of pastry again. drape the sheet across a deep 9" loaf pan so it lines the long ends of the pan. Cut the second sheet into three equal lengths. Curve and fit one strip into the end of the loaf pan to form a shape similar to the heel of a loaf and do the same with the other end with the second strip.

Run hot water on your fingers and smooth the sheets together so they form one "bucket" of puff pastry. It helps to slightly fold the top of the inner strips over the outer sheet and pinch so they form one dough. It doesn't have to be perfect, but we are looking for something close to "water tight".

With a fork, dock the dough, or pierce the bottom and sides of the puff. Put the pan in the fridge, but leave the last strip out to defrost a little further.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. When hot, add the onions and sweat them for five minutes. A good amount of liquid should come out of the onions. Add the cream, mustard powder, brown spicy mustard, and a pinch of salt, and stir to coat the onions. Sautee five to seven minutes more until the onions are soft and translucent. Set aside to cool down a little.

Preheat an oven to 350 F

In a big bowl, beat the eggs, add the cheeses, tarragon, and parsley, and mash together to integrate. Grind some black pepper in and taste for seasoning.

Add the warm but not hot onion mix to the cheese and egg bowl and mix together well. You don't want the onions to be too hot or you'll scramble the eggs. Gently mix the artichoke hearts into the mixture.

Pull the loaf pan from the fridge. Pour the contents of the bowl into the puff lined loaf pan. It should just fit.

Gently fold the puff sides and ends over the top. You won't be able to close it. There should be a one or two inch gap at the top. Here's where that last piece of puff comes in.

By now, that last strip of puff should be pretty pliable. Roll it out to make it extremely flat. Dock it with a fork and put it on top of the loaf to close the gap at the top. Very gently use water on your fingers to meld it into the other pieces of puff.

If you have trouble getting the last piece of puff off you work surface, you can usually use a cold chef's knife to pull it up off the board.

Place the loaf in the 350 oven and raise the temperature immediately to 400 F. Most ovens cycle on and off to regulate the temperature and we want a nice blast of initial heat so by preheating the oven to a lower temperature then raising the heat as we put the food in, we ensure the flame will be going while the puff tries to rise.

After about 15 minutes, start checking on the loaf. It's done when the top is a beautiful golden brown. It may go 20 or 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes before serving. If you let it cool longer, you'll get nice slices, but the filling won't be hot. I prefer the messy but hot method of just cutting into the hot "loaf" and accepting you'll end up with puff and filling instead of a nice neat slice. Your call.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at May 3, 2005 7:07 AM | TrackBack