A few months before my fifth birthday, my recently divorced mother moved the two of us from Wichita, Kansas, to Orléans, France, where she was a visiting scholar at the Centre Jeanne d’Arc and I attended the local école maternelle. Going from the Great Plains to the Loire Valley at that formative time shaped so much of my life, and imprinted my developing palate with all manner of delights. Among them, there was a clear standout: fromage de chèvre. Sweet, creamy curd, drizzled with honey; garlicky roules swirled through with herbs; and wrinkled, stinky crottins all made claim to my affections.
Fast forward four decades, and I live with my family on Ten Apple Farm, a diversified homestead and agritourism business in southern Maine, where we raise French Alpine dairy goats and make fresh chèvre with the raw milk from our herd. We hand milk every morning, resting our heads in meditation against the warm flanks of our does while our fingers set the rhythmic splash of milk into pail. As day passes and our goats browse in their pasture, or go off on hikes in our woods, the cheese nearly makes itself: a little culture and rennet stirred into a strained gallon of milk will be chèvre curd by the next morning, which can be drained of whey into a spreadable cheese by that evening’s dinner.
Our family smears chèvre onto crackers and homemade bread, mixes it with herbs and spices, and crumbles it into our salads. On its own, it’s sublime, suffused with the terroir of our corner of this earth. As an ingredient, Ten Apple Farm chèvre is at its best when it’s brightened with a little citrus and married with other flavors from our farm: foraged mushrooms, rich golden eggs from our free-ranging hens, and wild and cultivated herbs and produce.
The tart recipes that follow are two of our favorites, perfect this time of year to serve guests who stop by to boire un coup. The savory Chèvre and Wild Mushroom Tart pairs fresh cheese with earthy sautéed mushrooms, pungent thyme, and jammy caramelized red onion. In August, when our woods are teeming with black trumpets, we make this with mushrooms we’ve foraged; the rest of the year, we use a mix of whatever are available from local foragers and farmers. The sweet Honeyed Chèvre with Rosemary Tart is creamy and light, sweetened with local honey and perked up with a hint of zesty lemon and aromatic rosemary. Both are set in a classic pâte brisée tart shell, here supplied, but this could easily—and deliciously—be replaced with a gluten-free nut crust.
Makes dough for one 9- or 10-inch crusts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water
Pulse flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse again, until mixture is the texture of cornmeal. With machine on, add water by teaspoonfuls until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour, or overnight.
Honeyed Chévre with Rosemary Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart
1 recipe pâte brisée (above)
1/3 cup local honey
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon minced rosemary
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
8 ounces fresh chévre
Several sprigs fresh rosemary, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled dough into a circle 12-inches in diameter. Center dough in a 10-inch tart pan and press into place. Prick bottom of crust with a fork and partially bake, 10-12 minutes. Your crust may shrink back a bit from the sides, but for this tart, that’s fine. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat eggs until they’re foamy and lemon colored. Gradually add the honey and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the flour, vanilla, minced rosemary, and lemon zest. Add fresh chévre and stir until mixture is smooth.
Spoon filling into tart shell, smooth top with a spatula, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center is set. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with rosemary sprigs.
Chévre and Wild Mushroom Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart
1 recipe pâte brisée (above)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
8 ounces wild mushrooms, cleaned
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, separated
8 ounces fresh chèvre, crumbled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon roughly chopped Italian parsley
Extra chèvre crumbles for garnish, if desired
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled dough into a circle 12-inches in diameter. Center dough in a 10-inch tart pan and press into place. Prick bottom of crust with a fork and partially bake, 10-12 minutes. Your crust may shrink back a bit from the sides, but for this tart, that’s fine. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Place the onions in the pan, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, fragrant, and slightly pink. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes or until onions are a deep reddish brown. If the onions begin to stick, moisten the pan with water, 1 tablespoon at a time. When onions are fully caramelized, remove from heat, and scrape them into a bowl.
In the same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium-high heat. Place mushrooms into the pan and sauté, stirring or shaking the pan until the mushrooms are cooked and beginning to crisp in places, 5-10 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice, then remove from heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste, and 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme.
In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, then stir in the chèvre and remaining fresh thyme. Spread the chèvre mixture into the tart shell, then top with caramelized onions and cooked mushrooms. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until chèvre is set. While warm, drizzle heavy cream over the top of the mushrooms. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with chopped parsley and crumbled chèvre, if desired.
Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz are the wife and husband team behind seven books on food and farming, including the memoir The Year of the Goat, the guide Living With Goats, and most recently two volumes of the Maine Community Cookbook. Margaret is a writer and goat farmer. In addition to being the author of seven books, she is a regular contributor to Taproot Magazine, and has worked in cookbook publishing and as manager of New York’s landmark Magnolia Bakery. Karl is a photographer, journalist, and goat farmer. He has worked as a Digital Producer at ABC Television, a Photo Editor at Time Magazine, and as Director of Aurora Photos. Since 2005, the couple has lived with their three daughters on Ten Apple Farm, their homestead and agritourism business in southern Maine, where they raise dairy goats, tend a large garden and small orchard, lead goat hikes, teach workshops, and operate a guest house. You can visit them and buy their books at tenapplefarm.com, or on Instagram @tenapplefarm.
All photos by Karl Schatz.