At least one weekend each season, I make a trek to the Red Stick Farmers Market. I drive an hour across the Atchafalaya Basin to Baton Rouge to load up on unique homegrown surprises that always seem to show up at this terrific Saturday morning market.
There is a wide divide between the two sides of the swamp – both from a culinary point of view as well as culturally. To me, South Louisiana has more raw talent for cooking than most anyplace in America. It is the birthplace of our adventurous way of cooking and the culinary incubator of creative interpretations that continue to define and redefine the cuisine. But, I believe within the southern part of our state, there are three distinctly different styles of cooking.
New Orleans is fixated on haute Creole cuisine with a hotbed of talent that continues to evolve. Baton Rouge, and the Florida Parishes in the southeast part of the state, are more aligned with English-speaking, Deep South cooking and a more genteel, traditional style. But, Acadiana is unique. French Cajun Creole is the heritage, and there is no mistaking the rural homespun approach and the focus on depth of flavor with an elevated sense of taste.
This market caters to us all and I’m always delighted to find edible treasures at the Red Stick. Today, I discovered two little gems; duck eggs and squash blossoms. Wanda Barras, my goat cheese lady, is set up with a stall hawking her incredible cheeses along with a pile of fresh duck eggs. Wanda’s Belle Ecorce Farm in St. Martinville is home to a menagerie of livestock including lots of laying ducks. Her duck eggs are spectacular – much larger than a chicken’s and the higher yolk to white ratio yields a richer and more intense egg.
When I saw the fresh squash blossoms, I began to think about a delicious breakfast dish I once had in the Napa countryside town of St. Helena. A most memorable morning, it was a rustic, French quiche-like tart that combined a variety of freshly grown vegetables with farmhouse eggs. Those, I believe, were hens’ eggs, so I am expecting my take on this Provencal classic, using duck eggs, will only be more delicious.
With a basket full of produce, eggs, goat cheese and even some fresh Gulf shrimp, it’s time to head home to the kitchen and give this French-inspired egg dish a shot. Who knows, perhaps we can improve on the recipe and create new memories.
Duck Egg and Squash Blossom Breakfast Tart with Fresh Gulf Shrimp
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 – 45 minutes
Tip: You can use pie dough or even puff pastry for this crust. I experimented with a container of Crescent Dinner Rolls that I found in my refrigerator and discovered that it makes a terrific tart crust. Be sure to follow my directions and protect the edges of the dough when you blind bake so that it doesn’t overcook.
For the tart crust:
1 can Crescent Dinner Rolls, 8 rolls
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a 12-inch tart baking dish, spray the butter around the inside bottom and edges as well as the outer rim.
Open the can of rolls and position the dough on a cutting board. Carefully unroll the 8 dough triangles and spread out on the surface of the board. Match up the triangles to form 4 large rectangles. Move the first rectangle to the baking dish and drape the edge of the dough along the rim with the rest of the dough inside covering the bottom. Do this for each section of the remaining dough until you have all of the rim and the bottom of the dish covered.
With a fork, puncture holes in the bottom of the dough as well as the edges along the inside rim. Before blind baking, you will need to protect the outer edges of the dough from over-browning by covering with aluminum foil. Take long strips of foil and place on top of the outer rim of the dish where the dough extends upward.
Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet and move it to the center of the oven. Bake until the bottom of the dough is brown, about 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and remove the aluminum foil from around the rim.
For the egg filling:
3 duck eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons green onion tops, finely diced
In a stainless steel mixing bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk. With a wire whisk, beat the eggs vigorously until thoroughly combined. Add the salt and the leaves of the sprig of thyme along with the onions. Combine all and set aside.
For the assembly:
6 small squash with flower blossoms
8 green asparagus spears
4 large Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup goat cheese
Prepare the squash by cutting off the flower ends and reserving. Slice the squash into very thin rounds and place in a microwaveable container. Cut the tips of the asparagus off the stalks and place in the container along with the squash slices. Add a tablespoon of water, cover the container and microwave on high for one minute. Remove from the microwave and dry the par-cooked vegetables.
Place the shrimp on the cutting board and with a sharp knife carefully cut each in half horizontally along the length of the back of the shrimp. You should now have 8 pieces of shrimp.
Place the baking dish with the blind-baked dough on a cookie sheet, Add the egg mixture until it reaches just below the rim. Position the squash blossoms in sections of the egg mixture along with the asparagus tips and slices of squash.
Place the outer side of each of the shrimp halves into the egg mixture so that it appears above the egg surface. Place several small bite-sized pieces of the goat cheese among the vegetables and shrimp.
Place the filled tart back into the oven and bake until the egg mixture is fully set, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully and do not let the tart overcook and the exposed dough edge become over-browned. Remove immediately and let the tart rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
This tart is great served warm, at room temperature or even cold the next day. Slice it into triangles and serve with mixed greens, a slice of tomato and cold watermelon. Paired with a Champagne-laced Mimosa and this could be a brunch to remember.