It’s 7pm on a Friday night, and I’m staring into the refrigerator. There’s nothing. A few veggies and some goats cheese. I’m definitely not inspired to cook tonight, but we ordered sushi mid-week and had Indian take out the night before. For someone trying to be more mindful of my spending as of late, the guilt I would feel from ordering in again wasn’t worth it. But we were hungry. If I was a single woman I probably would have had a bag of popcorn for dinner. However, hubby has been working hard on our front entry renovation all day, and I’m not the type of wife to exclaim “Every man for himself!” when it comes to dinner.
The cupboards don’t offer up anything worth noting. I open the freezer and “ah ha!”. A box of puff pastry. If I have one word of advice, puff pastry is the most versatile ingredient you can keep tucked away in your freezer.
Got ground beef? Make a meatloaf, wrap it in puff pastry before cooking and you have a ‘cheats’ beef wellington.
Salmon? Roll out the puff pastry, spread pesto or a herb and garlic cream cheese on it, followed by asparagus spears, place the salmon on top, wrap it, seal the edges, and flip the whole thing over so the seam is down. Slice a few lines in the top so steam can escape. Cook in the oven and cut into slices before serving. It’ll look gorgeous.
But the most versatile use I have found of puff pastry came from the following recipe I found years ago in Martha Stewart’s Great Food Fast Cookbook.
Asparagus Gruyere Tart
Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
In addition to this variation, Martha also has another puff pastry tart recipe in the same cookbook with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onions and goats cheese that is to die for. And it’s SO easy to do.
Now, the basics of this tart recipe can be easily adapted to what you have available to you in your fridge. Whether it’s leftovers from a previous home-cooked meal, or maybe butter chicken from your local Indian delivery place, you can put almost anything on top of the puff pastry. The trick is to always pre-cook the pastry for about 15 minutes while you’re sauteing or prepping the other ingredients.
To demonstrate how versatile the puff pastry tart is, here are a couple of examples of topping combinations I’ve done in the past:
Butter Chicken, Roast Potato & Spinach with Mozzarella
All items I happened to have in my fridge. I shredded the cubes of chicken from our meal the night before. Roast potatoes were in the fridge from earlier in the week. Had spinach and mozzarella on hand.
And last night’s combination that saved dinner:
Sauteed Red Onion Peppers, Arugula and Goats Cheese
These were pretty much the only contents in my fridge, and the tart turned out to be delicious. I sauteed the veggies with a little bit of balsamic vinegar for some flavour, and then drizzled a balsamic reduction over the whole thing when finished. Cut into squares to serve and voila – a Friday night dinner was born from the meager items my fridge had to offer.
I think the key to each combination is the presence of some kind of green, whether asparagus, spinach or other, and at least one type of cheese. Meat isn’t necessary, but adds a bit more substance to the meal for those with large appetites.
And that’s the story of how puff pastry saved our dinner last night.
I hope that you’ll be inspired to pick some up yourself, and experiment with it the next time you ask yourself the age-old question… “What should I make for dinner?”.