Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Sage Green Apple and Aged Cheddar Tart

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Photo by Helene Dujardin

An excerpt from “Tart Love”

Apples sit firmly atop my favorite fall/winter food heap. Winesap, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and oodles of other heirloom varieties tempt me with their tart, sweet and crisp goodness. Eaten raw, out of the palm or nestled into a tart, apples offer infinite variety and goodness.

In this tart, the play is on the perennial pairing of apples and cheese. The edgy tartness of Granny Smith apples is idyllic with a best-quality aged, extra sharp cheddar cheese. Sage seals the deal with its effortlessly earthy touch.

Compile it just before your cocktail guests arrive and bake while they wait. The house is filled with wonderful aromas and the tart bakes in just 20 – 25 minutes. Serve it warm while the cheese is still gooey and gently oozing from the edges of the tart wedges. This tart makes a perfect appetizer or pair it with a salad for a complete meal.

(Makes 9 appetizer portions or 4 entree portions)

Equipment Needed: parchment paper

1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

2 medium Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and sliced very thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted, sweet butter

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

3 cups grated extra sharp, best-quality yellow cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange the thawed pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the pastry in the refrigerator while prepping the filling. Prepare the egg wash and briefly set aside.

Cut the apples, skin-on, very thinly. They should be so thin that you can practically see through them. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced apples, pepper, salt and sage. Toss the seasoned apples to coat, and cook for five minutes, or until the apples have just begun to soften and lightly brown. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and refrigerate until they are cool (about 15 – 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, grate the cheese with a box grater for a medium-sized grate. When the apples are cool, toss half of the cheese with the apples. Arrange this mixture in the center of the puff pastry sheet, spreading gently and evenly to the edges, leaving an 1/2″ border of naked pastry. Top the apples evenly with the remaining cheese, taking care not to drizzle over the clean pastry border. Brush the naked pastry border lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the pastry is fully puffed, a rich golden brown, and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve immediately while still warm.

For appetizer portions, cut through the tart in three even bars, both vertically and horizontally. For entree portions, cut the tart into four even squares. Garnish with a final pass of ground black pepper and a light drizzle of dried sage leaves if desired.

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