Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spinach and Goat Cheese Tartlets

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My family loves appetizers.  Some of our favorite appetizers that we make year after year for family gathers are: stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, and crab dip. So, when I heard that my brother was hosting our Christmas dinner and that the large majority of meal planning was already taken care of, I decided to contribute by creating a new appetizer.  A quick search led me to Spinach and Goat Cheese Tartlets, courtesy of the Food Network.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 1/2 ounces mild goat cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 10-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • Chopped chives, for garnish (I went without, so I can't say if they added much)
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then, melt  2 tablespoons of butter in a custard cup or microwave safe bowl.  Place your first sheet of phyllo dough on a sheet of wax paper and use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter over the dough.  Be careful not to rush this step because the dough is really delicate and tears easily.  

Once the phyllo sheet is covered in butter, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over it.  Repeat this step with two additional sheets.  The recipe that I was following implied that you only need 3 sheets of dough total to create 24 phyllo shells.  However, my first set of phyllo only yielded 18 phyllo shells, so I repeated the process with another 3 sheets of dough to make 6 additional cups. Then, cut the sheets into 3X3 inch squares, so that you have a total of 24 squares for the mini muffin tin.   


Next, brush the muffin tin with oil.  Place the dough squares, butter side down, into each cup, pressing on the center of the square so that the sides stick up above the tin. Bake in the over for about 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Keep an eye on them in the over--mine were browned after only 7 minutes and you do not want the shells to burn!  Once finished baking, remove from oven and set aside.

While baking, heat remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan.  Then, add the minced shallot and garlic into the butter and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Next, add the flour, milk nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, and stir until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.  Finally, add the goat cheese, lemon zest, and vinegar, stirring until all the cheese has fully melted.

Once the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and add in the spinach and egg yolks only, reserving egg whites.  Stir until well incorporated.  Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks (think meringue consistency). Fold in the egg whites to the spinach and cheese mixture.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into each pastry cup.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until filling is set.  Allow to cool in pan before removing.  Top with chives if desired.  

These were a huge hit with my family! The tartlets were crunchy on the outside, yet smooth and creamy on the inside.  The light flavor of the goat cheese mixed well with the spinach, and the nutmeg added a necessary bite.  I have to admit, they were a bit more involved to prepare than I expected (read, we were an hour late to our scheduled dinner arrival, oops!). My biggest tip: make sure you defrost the spinach and drain it before making this recipe.  I failed to do that, and it was hectic to take care of that step once the cheese had already melted.  This took me about 1 hour to complete.  I will definitely be making these again for the next event I attend that calls for appetizers!

What's your favorite appetizer?  I'm always looking for new recipes to try out!

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