Chef Wylie Dufresne made a name for himself, in part, with eggs benedict.
The now famous dish served at his much beloved but recently shuttered NYC restaurant wd~50 was a modern (some would say molecular) spin on the original: a column of slow-poached egg yolk alongside a cube of deep-fried hollandaise crusted with english muffin crumbs, garnished with a crispy Canadian bacon chip. It was this and many other crazy, creative dishes that earned Dufresne the James Beard award for Best NYC Chef, in 2013 — his first win and tenth nomination for a Beard award.
But when we invited chef to the BuzzFeed test kitchen to make breakfast, he suggested something simpler (though still not your average civilian breakfast): a potato and bacon tart. This dish is a throwback to his early restaurant, 71 Clinton Fresh Food, circa 1999, and he recently brought it back for the the brunch menu at his newish East Village spot Alder. It starts with a puff pastry base spread with homemade bacon jam and soft goat cheese, then is topped with a mini pommes maxine, a fancy French potato cake that’s really not so hard to make and insanely delicious.
“The key to the success of this tart is multitasking,” chef says. You can make the bacon jam up to a week in advance, then let your puff pastry bake while you prepare the potato cakes. Alder’s bar manager, Kevin Denton, came along to make an awesome spicy tequila cocktail with pineapple and yellow peppers, which you should probably be drinking while you cook, as well as while you eat.
Here are all the ingredients you’ll need:
Butter, goat cheese, yellow onion, russet potatoes, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, slab bacon, and store-bought puff pastry.* We also had arugula, to make a pretty side salad.
Also, chef used a 6-inch metal pipe, 3 small non-stick molds, and a mandoline. It’s possible to make this recipe without these things, but no guarantees it’ll turn out as delicious or as pretty.
You can get the non-stick molds from JB Prince. And you only NEED two, but having three will make for more seamless flipping. If you don’t have the molds, you can use a 5-inch mini egg skillet. OR, you could try making one big tart instead of two smaller ones, in a 6-inch cast iron skillet.
For the pipe, your best bet is a hardware store. If you can’t find one, you can just make the potato cylinders with your knife.
Get a mandoline here. It’s totally worth having one, since it slices things evenly and quickly. No more wasting time (and tears!) slicing onions, garlic, potatoes, or any other fruit or vegetable.
TO MAKE THE CLARIFIED BUTTER:
1. For this recipe, you need clarified butter. It’s best to make much more than you need, then just keep in in your fridge or freezer. We clarified 1 pound (4 sticks) of unsalted butter.
Always make more clarified butter than you need. It keeps for 3-4 months and it’s WAY better than regular butter or olive oil for searing something (like fish) at high heat because it has a higher smoke point.
2. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes.
3. Then, put the cubed butter into a small or medium pot over very low heat, to melt the butter.
You want to melt the butter really slowly, so that the milk solids float to the top.
4. Once the butter is melted, a thick layer of foam will accumulate on top.
5. Use a spoon to get as much of the foam off as possible.
You can throw the foam away, but I suggest you keep it. It actually tastes really good on top of oatmeal.
Don’t worry about getting every last bit, just get most of the white foam (the milk solids) off.
6. Set up a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl or measuring cup, then line the strainer with about 4 layers of cheesecloth.
The cheesecloth should be pretty thick, since you don’t want any of the milk solids to fall through.
7. Pour the butter through the cheesecloth.
And that’s it! You just made clarified butter! You’ll need half a cup for this recipe.
Store the rest in an airtight container in the fridge, and use it for EVERYTHING.
TO MAKE THE BACON JAM:
8. If you’re using slab bacon, first cut it into slices about 1/4-inch thick.
CHEF’S (GENIUS!) TIP:
Put your bacon in the freezer for a little while before you cut it, just so that it’s extremely cold. “Any time you have to deal with something slippery and fatty, the more you handle it, the more the heat from your hands is going to warm it up,” chef says. You’ll be able to cut it more cleanly when it’s cold, and you won’t run the risk of slipping and cutting your hand.
9. Take the slices and cut them into smaller, thin strips.
10. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the bacon.
11. Cook the bacon, stirring often, until it’s golden brown on all sides.
12. If the bacon starts to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan, just add a few tablespoons of water and continue to cook it.
Adding a bit of water several times during cooking will keep the bacon from burning too much, and it’ll also deglaze the pan, which means all of the caramelized meat sucs that are stuck to the bottom of the pan will mix back into the bacon and make it extra delicious. “There are very few times when water will hurt something,” chef says. “It’s neutral, it will evaporate.”
13. Halve the onion, then cut it into thin slices.
14. Toss the sliced onion in a small bowl with a little bit of kosher salt.
Tossing sliced onion with a pinch of kosher salt before cooking draws out some of the water and softens the onion a little bit.
15. It should take about 10 minutes for your bacon to get deeply browned and crispy.
16. Next, it’s time to add your onions.
17. Stir everything together.
Let it cook—occasionally adding water, stirring, and letting the water evaporate—until the onion has broken down, about 35-40 minutes. In the meantime, make the puff pastry disks and the potato cakes.
“Whether you’re sautéing mushrooms or browning bacon or caramelizing onions, I’m a fan of constantly deglazing, reducing, caramelizing, deglazing, reducing, caramelizing. You build layers of flavor when you do that,” chef says. Chef added water to this bacon-onion mixture at least 4 or 5 times while it cooked over the course of 30-45 minutes.
When the bacon jam is cooked, it’ll look like this:
18. Scrape everything from the pot into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
Make sure you get everything. The stuff that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan is the most delicious stuff.
19. Pulse it 10-15 times, until it’s a thick, coarse paste. That’s it! BACON JAM.
And, GOOD NEWS! This recipe makes more bacon jam than you’ll actually need for your tarts. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and eat it with a spoon every chance you get (yes, it’s that good).
TO MAKE THE PASTRY DISKS:
Use store-bought puff pastry sheets because making puff pastry from scratch is very, very hard.
Like, even Wylie Dufresne says to use store-bought puff pastry. And this is a man who is famous for aerated foie gras and a shrimp and grits dish where the shrimp IS the grits.
20. Preheat your oven to 325°, then unroll the sheets of puff pastry, then use a cup, jar or mold to cut disks about 4-inches in diameter, and use a fork to poke a few holes in each one.
If you’re using non-stick molds to make your potato cakes, you can use those to cut out the disks.
21. LIne a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then lay the disks over the parchment. Make sure they’re not touching.
22. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper.
23. Then put another sheet tray on top.
This will keep the puff pastry from puffing too much.
24. Bake in the 325° oven until the pastry is golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes.
Keep your oven on. You’ll need it to heat the finished tart.
TO MAKE THE POTATO CAKES:
25. First, make sure your clarified butter is warm. You need it to be liquid, not solid.
You can microwave it for 20 seconds or so, or heat it in a small pot over low heat.
26. Wash your potatoes, then cut about half an inch off of the top and bottom of each one, so that they have flat edges.
27. Use a metal pipe about 1 1/2 inches in diameter to pierce through the potato from top to bottom
You’ll have to press down pretty hard to cut through the potato.
28. To get the potato cylinder out of the pipe, you’ll have to use the end of a long wooden spoon or spatula to press it through.
29. Put the warm clarified butter in a medium mixing bowl.
30. Working right over the bowl of clarified butter, use a mandoline to slice the potatoes into thin disks.
31. This is the thickness you’re going for—about 3/4 of a centimeter. If you don’t have a mandoline you could do this with a knife, but it won’t come out as perfectly.
It doesn’t matter if your disks are a little thicker or a little thinner than chef’s. What’s important is that all of your disks are uniform, so that they cook at the same rate. If you’re using a knife, it’ll be hard to make every disk the same thickness, but really try your best.
32. Once both potato cylinders are sliced into disks, mix them around in the clarified butter, so that every disk is coated with butter on both sides.
This will help them stick together as they cook, and keep them from oxidizing (turning brown).
33. Season with salt, and toss everything together again.
34. Now, you’ll build the potato cakes in their molds. Start by laying 2 potato disks on top of each other, in the very center of the mold.
35. Then, lay the disks down in a circle around the outside of the mold, so that they’re overlapping. laying each new disk on top of the last so that they’re overlapping.
36. Tuck the last disk underneath the first when you get to the end of the circle.
37. When you’ve gone all the way around, it should look like this.
38. Then, lay another two disks on top of each other in the center of the mold.
Just like you did on the bottom.
39. Once both of your molds are filled, heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat until it’s VERY hot, then lay the molds down in the skillet
At Alder, chef does this on the flat top, which is essentially a huge piece of metal with burners underneath it that keep the whole thing super hot all the time. You’ll get the same kind of heat from a cast iron skillet, it’s just smaller.
40. Add a teaspoon of clarified butter to each tart, right at the edge.
More butter, more better.
41. Cook the potato cakes for about 10 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
42. Then, you need to flip the cake. It’s easiest to do this by putting another mold on top, then using tongs to just flip the cake right into the second mold.
BUT, if you don’t have an extra mold, you can carefully flip the potato cake out onto a plate, then use a metal spatula to carefully pick it up and slide it back into the mold, uncooked side-down.
43. Put the flipped potato cake right back in the skillet, then flip the other potato cake the same way.
44. Cook for another 10 minutes, until the underside is golden brown and the cake has shrunk down a little bit.
I know, it’s hard to tell if the underside is golden brown when you can’t see it. Ten minutes is about how much time it’ll take, and it’ll shrink a little bit so the edges won’t be touching the mold.
45. Gently flip the finished potato cakes out onto a paper towel-lined plate, then blot them with a paper towel on both sides.
NIce work. And trust me, they taste as good as they look.
FOR THE TART ASSEMBLY!
46. Your oven already be at 325°. Spread about 2 tablespoons of bacon jam on each puff pastry disk.
47. Then, break 4 ounces of goat cheese into large chunks, and spread about 2 ounces on each tart, on top of the bacon jam.
48. Season with freshly ground pepper. You probably don’t need salt, since everything is already seasoned and the cheese is pretty salty.
49. Then, put a potato cake on top and press it into the cheese so that it sticks.
50. Put the assembled tarts on a skillet or baking sheet, then put them in the oven for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and everything is hot.
Chef made a really simple arugula salad dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper as a garnish. But, this is breakfast, which means greens are optional.
Some mornings, eating any amount of salad is too much to ask.
Potato Bacon Tart
This recipe calls for a seriously delicious bacon jam that takes about an hour to make. If you don’t want to wait that long for breakfast, make the bacon jam up to a week in advance, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Warning: you’ll want to spread it on everything.
Recipe by Wylie Dufresne
Makes 2 tarts, with leftover bacon jam
For the bacon jam:
1 tablespoon clarified butter*
1 pound slab bacon, cut into lardons (matchsticks about 1 inch long and 1/4-inch thick)
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the puff pastry shells:
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry
For the potato cake:
2 medium russet potatoes
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons clarified butter,* separated
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the tart assembly:
4 ounces soft goat cheese
Note: You can buy clarified butter at the grocery store. It’ll probably be called “ghee.” Also, there’s a tutorial in this post about how to make it at home, using just regular, unsalted butter
For the bacon jam:
1. Melt butter in a large or medium pot over high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crispy and browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. If the bacon starts to burn or stick to the pan, add a couple tablespoons of water.
2. When the bacon is crispy, add the sliced onions. Stir everything together, season with just a little bit of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, for 35-40 minutes, until the onions are broken down. Just like when you were cooking the bacon, you can add a couple tablespoons of water if things start to stick or burn. While the bacon jam cooks, prepare the puff pastry shells and the potato cakes.
3. When the bacon jam has finished cooking, transfer it to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, and pulse the mixture 10-15 times, until it’s a coarse, thick paste. Set the finished jam aside until you’re ready to assemble the tart. If you’re making it in advance, store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
For the puff pastry disks:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Have another sheet of parchment paper and another rimmed baking sheet on hand.
2. Using molds (the same ones you’ll use for the potato cakes) or a jar or small bowl that’s about 4.5 inches in diameter, cut 2 disks out of the pastry dough, each about 4.5 inches in diameter.
3. Place the unbaked disks of pastry dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet, then cover them with another layer of parchment paper, then put another large rimmed baking sheet right on top. That second baking sheet is there to stop the pastry from puffing too much.
4. Bake in the 325°F oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry disks are light brown and crispy all the way through. Leave your oven on to heat the tart later.
For the potato cakes:
1. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat, and melt 1/2 cup of clarified butter in the microwave or in a small pot on the stovetop.
2. While your skillet is heating, cut about 1/2 inch off of both ends of the potatoes, so that the top and bottom have flat edges. Stand one potato upright, sitting on one of the flat edges, then press the metal pipe all the way through the potato, lengthwise, so that you’re left with a long cylinder. Repeat this with the other potato.
If you don’t have a metal pipe: cut about 1/2 inch off of both ends of the potatoes, so that the top and bottom have flat edges. Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off of the potato, then keep peeling all the way around, until you’ve peeled enough off that the potato is in a rough cylinder, about 1.5 inches in diameter.
3. Pour the melted clarified butter into a medium mixing bowl, then set up a mandoline over the bowl and slice the potato cylinders into thin (about 3/4 centimeter thick) disks, straight into the clarified butter.
If you don’t have a mandoline: use a knife to thinly slice the potato cylinders into disks. Do your best to make them all the same thickness.
4. Once both your potato cylinders are sliced, season the potato disks with a little salt and pepper, then toss them in the clarified butter so that every disk is coated with butter on both sides.
5. Build your potato cakes in the non-stick molds: place 2 potato disks, on on top of the other, in the very center of the mold. Then, lay the remaining potato disks in an overlapping circle around the disks in the center. The mold is small enough that the disks will be touching the edge of the mold, and the disks should be overlapping so much that only about a centimeter of each disk is visible. Once you’ve made the circle, lay two potato disks in the center, on top of the circle. Do the same thing with the second mold, to create a second potato cake.
6. Place the filled molds in the hot cast iron skillet, then add a teaspoon of clarified butter to each mold, right at the edge. Cook the potato cakes until they’re crispy and golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Then, flip the potato cakes by placing another mold directly on top, face down, and flipping the molds with tongs so the potato cake falls into the second mold, uncooked side-down. If you don’t have an extra mold, flip the potato cake out onto a plate then use a spatula to gently slide it back into the mold, uncooked side-down. Cook until the cake is crispy and golden brown on both sides and cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes more.
For the tart assembly:
1. Spread 2 tablespoons of bacon jam on one side of each puff pastry disk, being sure to cover the whole suface. Crumble the goat cheese into large chunks and divide it evenly between the two tarts, on top of the bacon jam. Season with freshly ground pepper, then press one potato cake onto the top of each tart. Transfer the tarts to a baking sheet or skillet, and bake them in the 325°F oven just until they’re heated through, about 5 minutes.
Serve immediately. (Preferably alongside Alder’s Yellow Light Cocktail.)