Saturday, August 18, 2007

French Onion Tart

I first came across the idea of this tart reading Elizabeth David. She talked of an onion-anchovy pissaladiere that was, in her view, what "pizza" is supposed to be. (She has a bit in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine wherein she discusses the "debasing" of pizza).

I love onions but until I read of this onion tart, had never considered that onions could hold their own place as the main feature of a dish (French onion soup doesn't really count because the success of that is based on the depth of flavor in the broth and the cheesiness of the crouton).

My version of this tart is all about the onions. I don't use anchovies and only occasionally add good black Nicoise or Kalamata olives. Most usually it is just gorgeous thick slices of sweet onion, cooked slowly in butter and oil until they turn into deep mahogany brown morsels of concentrated flavor. Storage onions can be used in this recipe, in the winter, when fresh sweet onions are unavailable (or too dear...we've already discussed this) but in that case you will likely need to add a sprinkling of sugar to help the onions yield up their essence. Generally speaking I consider this a summer dish.

It is lovely all on it's own with a nice glass of crisp white wine. Served as a side dish, it will nudge a simple bowl of tomato soup to elegant heights.

French Onion Tart

Preheat oven to 425°.

For the crust:

2 T. yeast
2 t. sugar
1 c. warm water
2 T. olive oi
l2 t. salt
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3 c. (or more) all-purpose flour

Place yeast, sugar and water in bowl of a standing mixer and let sit until yeast begins to foam and bubble. Add in the olive oil and salt. With dough hook attachment, work in the whole wheat flour and then begin adding the all-purpose flour until you form a ball of dough that holds it's shape and is not sticky. Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Oil the mixing bowl and return dough to it, turning once to coat. Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm spot to rise until double. Punch down and let rest for a few minutes.

Press dough out into an oiled tart pan (or pizza pan or sheet pan...whatever you prefer). Place in oven for about 8 minutes to set the crust.

For the onion filling:

1-2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
3-4 large sweet onions*, peeled, cut in half and then sliced medium thick (not too thick, but not too thin)
2-3 t. fresh chopped rosemary
1 T. Herbes de Provence
1 handful of Nicoise (or Kalamata) olives, pitted and chopped (optional)

Melt the butter over medium high heat in a large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron if you have it and if you don't, you really should get one). Add oil to keep butter from browning.

Add in the onions. Keep an eye on them to begin with, stirring often so they cook evenly. You want them to turn a nice soft shade of brown but you don't want them to be crisp. Adjust the heat if you need to.

When onions are yielding and a good nutty brown, lower heat and continue cooking until they are a deep shade of brown and richly fragrant. Stir in the rosemary and herbes de Provence.

Remove from heat and spread over prebaked crust. Sprinkle with olives, if using.

Bake tart for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

* Remember that onions are largely water so they are going to reduce radically in volume. You have enough if your pan is about half full. If you have more than you need for the tart just stick them in a plastic bag and use later in the week for another dish.


Seattle Coffee Girl said...

Looks scrum-dilly-icious. I was recently reading about pissaladiere in "Cooks" magazine,and they went on and on about the anchovies. I can't deal with those, but I can deal with carmelized onions. Nummers.

Lorraine said...

I don't mind the ocassional anchovy, SCG, but the purity of this particular tart is quite gratifying.