My cooking tends towards comfort food in general, and when I’m stuck inside on a rainy November day caught between a cold and recovery from surgery, I don’t need any additional excuses to crave comfort food. At least I was back on feet and able to tackle something in the kitchen. My latest challenge is savory pastry, so I set my sights on making an onion tart. Over twitter, Kelly from Sass & Veracity suggested adding taleggio cheese, to which I whole-heartedly agreed, and Lisl was kind enough to pick some up for me today when she was out.
I decided to stick with Elise’s method for making Pâte Brisée (the pastry) since it worked last time and I’m new enough to pastry making that if it ain’t broke, I shouldn’t try to fix it (don’t worry, the tinkerer will emerge soon enough). I’ll note that both times I have made this, the pastry needed more than 3 or 4 tbsp of very cold water. Tonight it was more like 7 or 8.
I made the pastry first because it needed to rest in the fridge for an hour or so, and then turned to the onions.
Making the Tart
3 or 4 leeks, cleaned, halved and finely sliced
2 or 3 large onions (spanish or vidalia), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 red (or green) jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a large pinch of dried thyme)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
a pinch of salt
fifth to a quarter lb taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2 cubes
1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Make sure your leeks are well cleaned. Remove the very bottom of the leek, and then cut off the top a few inches above where the white transitions to green. With your knife, halve or quarter the top several inches of the leek and place it under a running faucet, opening up the layers with your fingers to remove any grit. Then thinly slice. Prep the onions by peeling, halving, and then thinly slicing. (By the way, I once read that if you keep a piece of bread in your mouth while you chop onions, you won’t have as severe a reaction. As far as I can tell, it is true!)
In a large, heavy bottomed pot (a pot with a high edge is easier than a saute pan here so that you don’t spill as you stir), heat up the olive oil and butter over low heat. Add the leeks, onions, thyme sprigs and a pinch of salt and slowly cook, stirrying occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the jalapeno, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be soft and nicely caramelized. Turn off the heat and let cool. Taste for salt and pepper, but I found that very little salt was needed. You want the onions to be moist but not liquidy, so drain any extra liquid.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
When the onions are cool, chop up your taleggio cheese and have ready. Then take out a large baking tray and place parchment paper on top. Wisk up your egg wash (optional) and have everything ready for when you take the pastry out of the fridge.
On a floured surface, roll out your pastry into a thin 14″ circle. If it starts to stick to the surface below, lift it gently up (you can use the rolling pin to carefully “unroll” it from the surface) and dust a little more flour down. Carefully fold the pastry over onto itself (half) and then again (quarter), to move to the baking tray, and then unfold on the parchment paper.
Spread the taleggio cheese around, keeping within 2 inches from the outer edge, and then scoop the onion mixture on top. Fold the outside edge over, overlapping and gently pressing the folds onto the pastry below. Brush the egg wash on the top of the pastry and then place in the oven for 45 or 50 minutes. When golden brown, remove and cool on a rack (you do not want to leave on the tray and parchment paper or it might get soggy).
The dish was deliciously rich, and Lisl gave me a big nod of approval on the results of my pastry. Thanks for suggestion Kelly! It might not have been the prettiest pastry ever made, but comfort food isn’t meant to be some dolled-up, foam-covered, high-falutin’ thing after all!