My friend Terry brought me an Ingles bag heavy with ramps. Ten bunches. A poke full of possibilities. My usual ramp ritual, if and when I’ve lucked into a few, has usually been a simple sauté. Bulbs and tender leaves quickly sizzled in brown butter, sprinkled with sherry or balsamic, and turned out onto well-seared lamb chops. It’s the ultimate spring meal. But this year’s bounty comes early and the specimens are on the delicate side. They’re not fit for rough treatment. What are they fit for?
I went through a lot of ideas. Kimchi? Nah. Too much kimchi lately. Ramp butter? Could be. Compound butter lasts forever in the freezer. But my young ramps don’t have adequate leafage to make grassy green butter. Besides, my freezer is brimming with ingredients and stuff. I need to work down my stockpile (see this post).
My deliberation continued for a couple of days. Fortunately ramps are patient. Final decision: for immediate gratification I chose Ramp Tarts; for the remaining lot, Pickled Ramps. I can do lots of things with pickled ramps. Here’s the tart recipe. Stay tuned for a pickled ramps post.
Ramp and Country Ham Tart
Makes one 10 x 15-inch tart
Country ham and ramps have been crossing paths for ages where I live, here in the Southern Appalachians. When the two do meet, it’s a salty and savory pairing of rugged mountain flavors. For a meal, I serve Ramp and Country Ham Tart with a robust salad of sturdy greens—endive, escarole, romaine—tossed with a tart, slightly sweet vinaigrette. Such a full-flavored tart also makes a fantastic spring appetizer. If you like, top it with a fluff of frisse leaves that’ve been tossed with a few drips of oil and vinegar. Grind some fresh pepper over top and cut the Ramp and Country Ham tart into bite-size squares or triangles.
RAMPS vary in size over their short season, beginning as thin shoots with tightly wrapped leaves progressing to fat bulbs with lots of droopy leaves. The amount you’ll need depends on when you find them. I don’t specify weight in the recipe because ramps can come trimmed or with roots and thick outer tunics. Due to popularity, ramp poaching has become a concern. Unless your source is farmed like mine, ramps with roots or in whole clumps might be signs of unsustainable harvesting. This link demonstrates selective whole plant harvesting, and this link argues for stem only harvesting. (Dustin also knows the Ingles bag.) Know your source. COUNTRY HAM comes in shelf stable packages in a variety of cuts. I buy cuts called biscuit slices. Substitute pancetta, capocolla, or bacon.
- 30–60 ramps (depending on size), trimmed and divided for:
- Filling: 5–10 ramps with nicely developed leaves, finely chopped to yield ¼ cup
- Topping: 15–20 thin, pretty ramps with tight young leaves
- Sauté: 10–20 larger, fatter ramps, coarsely chopped to yield 1½ cups
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 4 ounces (about ¾ cup, packed) sliced country ham, cut into ¼-inch slivers
- 1½ cups chopped ramps for Sauté
- 1 sheet (10″ x 15″) prepared puff pastry, thawed and unrolled
- 1 jumbo egg (or 1 egg plus 1 yolk), beaten
- ¼ cup chopped ramps for Filling
- ½ cup (4 ounces) ricotta or goat cheese
- ½ cup cream or milk
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- (remaining egg)
- Ramps for Topping
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chunky salt, such as Celtic, Maldon, or gray sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack positioned in the center.
- Trim, clean, and divide ramps as listed in the Ingredients.
Hint: Whole ramps with roots are easier to clean while under water. Soak them for a couple of minutes and then, while submerged, slide off their slippery tunics and cut off their roots.
- Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the country ham slivers. Cook until the ham is crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the oil. Note: Frying country ham is a smoky endeavor.
- Add the Filling ramps to the skillet and sauté them until wilted and beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the ramps to a dish.
- Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper, a silicon baking mat, or foil. With a sharp knife, score a “frame” along the outside about ¼ inch from the edge. Try not to cut all the way through.
- Lightly brush the beaten egg on the inside square—not on the frame. Reserve the remaining egg for the filling.
- Bake the pastry until it has risen all the way to the center and is lightly browned—10 to 15 minutes. Remove the crust and let it cool on the baking sheet for 2 or 3 minutes. Gently press down the center so that the border is higher than the inside square.
- Combine the ¼ cup Filling ramps with the ricotta cheese, cream, salt, white pepper, and remaining egg.
- Pour the mixture into the center of the pastry shell and spread it to the border. Sprinkle with the 1½ cups Sauté ramps and the country ham. Arrange the Topping ramps across the tart and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
- Bake the tart at 425 degrees until the filling sets and the cheese has melted, about 15 to 20 minutes—begin checking after 15 minutes.
- Let the tart cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. The Ramp and Country Ham Tart is delicious warm or at room temperature and can be made a day ahead. If making ahead, let it cool completely before covering.
You can make this tart on pie crust or pizza dough. Roll out your base of choice, fashion a lip around the edge, and pre-bake it as described in the recipe. For a heartier tart, put an egg on it, as they say. Actually, up to four eggs. Add them before sprinkling on the cheese and bake until the eggs are set to your liking. You can replace country ham with bacon or breakfast sausage (pre-cooked) for a milder flavor. And if it’s an off-ramp time of year, use young leeks, green garlic, scallions, or go totally allium free with asparagus.