Tartine is historically the French word for a little tart. However, in France it now refers to a piece of grilled toast with a topping and can be sweet or savoury – think bruschetta or goat’s cheese and fig. Essentially a fancy word for an open faced sandwich. This Tartine is sort of a combination of both, a beautifully crunchy layer of pressed puff pastry is covered in an intensely savoury yet sweet, peppery pea purée and a comforting layer of braised oxtail which has been rendered deliciously smoky and slightly spicy through the addition of chipotle. Served with 72 hour beef short ribs, sherry vinegar pickled shiitake mushrooms, carrot purée and a port and beef jus it made a pretty cracking main course, but if I’m honest the tartine would have made a great meal all by itself.
It’s a very versatile recipe. Once you’ve learnt how to properly bake the puff pastry tartine base then the topping is up to you. It’s also perfect for doing bits of the cooking whenever you have the time which is why I had to share it with you guys here at TimedEating. If you have thirty minutes where you’ll be at home on one day then cook the puff pastry then and store it in airtight containers for 3-5 days. Having an evening in one night, then cook the oxtail whilst you’re watching a movie. It will keep beautifully for a week. Same holds for the pea (or carrot) purée and the pickled mushrooms which makes the cooking on the day really quite easy – very similar to how it would be in a restaurant situation.
Puff pastry is a laminated dough, i.e., it has layers of dough folded in on itself. In the folding porcess, you end up with little layers of butter in between each layer of dough, 729 layers of butter to be precise. These layers of butter melt and the water evaporates pushing in both directions on the dough layers as it expands. This is what causes puff pastry to “puff” and rise in the oven. In fact, if you don’t put anything on it at all one thin layer of puff pastry can become as large as my nephew’s head (if you want a more scientific measurement then I’m not your man – measuring pastry against a child’s head is a time honoured tradition with which one should not trifle!). However, if you compress the pastry so it can’t rise, the layers still separate from each other, they just stay as separate but tightly compressed layers.
This means you get an intensely rich, savoury and flaky base – you do the same thing in patisserie except you dust it with icing sugar/cinnamon and call it arlette. The only difficult thing is making sure the pastry doesn’t stick – I always use silicone mats which have stuck with me for years but greaseproof paper will work very well as well. Simply line a baking tray, place the rolled pastry on top and the cover with another layer. Place another tray on top with a heavy weight and bake until golden and crisp (about 30 minutes) – you may want to turn the pastry over half way through to get an even colouration.
The topping for this tartine started with a smooth but fiercely peppery pea purée which I had actually served with the starter of shredded pork bonbons with fennel and blood orange salad. On top of that I placed a fiery and smokey shredded oxtail made with chipotle. I have used dried chillies many times before with limited success, I’d always ended up with a weak, insipid and one-dimensional flavour that had fallen miles short of the recipe’s promised nirvana. Dried chillies were meant to transport me to Sichuan in the Far East (an expression I’ve never understood, Far East of what exactly?) or to the steps of Cholula pyramid in Mexico (I’d dearly love to go) but somehow it always ended up feeling more greasy take-away Chinese or Tex-Mex. Then I read a blog by Kenji at SeriousEats.com. He removes the seeds and toasts briefly in pan before blending with water or stock. The resulting purée is nothing short of transcendent – you get all the flavour (and heat if the chilli isn’t mild) without losing any of the subtle complexities. I braised my oxtail in a simple combination of chipotle purée, stock and water with a few bay leaves and star anise pods thrown in for good measure. The result goes amazingly well with the peas and the crunchy pastry but would go equally well thrown over some mashed potatoes or better yet polenta with a few pickled mushrooms. I make more than I need as it freezes brilliantly (as does the pea purée!).
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do – let me know if you develop a favourite puff pastry tartine of your own – maybe a simple roasted tomato and mozzarella with basil or wild mushroom and goat’s cheese with walnuts. For now though, I’m sticking to oxtail until I’m fully convinced that Spring is here and the cold and rain have retreated.
Oxtail and puff pastry tartine with chipotle
Ingredients: (serves 6 easily)
- 1 block of puff pastry rolled to 5mm thick
- 180g frozen peas
- 800g oxtail (you could also use beef shin)
- 2 dried chipotle chillies
- 1l brown chicken stock (optional – water works well too)
- 1 large knob of butter
- 1 splash of brandy
- 1 bouquet garni consisting of: 1 star anise, 3 bay leaves, some black peppercorns)
- 3 onions, peeled and halved (root still attached)
- Make the puff pastry base: To do so first heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the rolled out puff pastry between two sheets of silicone (or greaseproof paper). Place on a baking tray with another tray on top and place a weight on top (you can see a picture of my set-up above). Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes turning halfway. When you remove it should be crisp (not bendy) and golden brown, if not keep cooking. Leave ot cool before portioning into rectangles and placing in an airtight container with some paper towel. It will last for a week.
- To make the pea purée place the peas and butter in a pan and add a splash of water (1-2 tablespoons). Cook on high until peas are just tender and then blend until very smooth. You may need to add a little liquid (water or chicken stock). Add two small knobs of cold butter and blend more, season well with salt and a decent whack of pepper. This will keep in the fridge for a week or frozen for almost ever. (here are some tips on making pea purée)
- Remove the stalk and seeds from the chipotles. Toast on a medium heat in a dry pan until flexible and aromatic. Add 1 cup of water (or chicken stock) and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until completely smooth (it will be a vibrant red).
- Sear the oxtail in a heavy bottomed pot to create a layer of caramelisation. Remove the oxtail and deglaze with the brandy. Add the oxtail, onions, bouquet garni and chipotle purée to the pan and top up with either water or chicken stock to cover. Bring to a simmer and either simmer on the stove for 3 hours or transfer to an oven at 140 for 3-5 hours. The oxtail should be completely tender. (Here are some tips on cooking oxtail)
- Leave the oxtail to cool in the liquid until cool enough to handle. This is important as otherwise the oxtail will dry out. Shred the oxtail and add a little of the liquid. Discard the onions and bouquet garni. The oxtail will keep for a week.
- To serve, reheat all the ingredients gently. The pea purée and oxtail are best reheated in saucepans and the puff pastry bases in the oven at 180 for about 5-10 minutes. Cover the tartine base with some pea and then the oxtail, season lightly on the top with flaky sea salt and serve.