Friday, November 07, 2003

When I got Baking With Julia (see sidebar for link), I was especially excited to make Nancy Silverton's sourdough and olive bread, since I had seen that episode a billion times, thinking every time "I should do that." And my love for the La Brea Bakery knows no bounds.

So I seriously flipped through BWJ 18 million times, looking for those recipes- before realizing that was an episose of Cooking With Master Chefs, not Baking With Julia. And now that I have Cooking With Master Chefs, I was thrilled to see Andre Soltner had a recipe for tarte flambee, which included what I've been looking for in an onion tart (a creamy base topping). Using all my past onion tart experience, I felt free to tinker with his recipe a bit. I rendered the bacon fat first and then caramelized the onions in some of that fat, instead of cooking the onions with the bacon until tender. Andre claimed, as most onion tart recipes do, the onions would finish off in the oven. Andre, like all onion tart recipes, lied. I also doubled the amount of onions- he asked for 1/2 a medium onion (about 1 cup) for 4 8 inch tarts! I used a whole medium onion and next time will probably double that. Perhaps traditional onion tarts aren't that oniony, but I don't see why that should be.

However, this was the best onion tart I've ever had, and I think I've found a winner. I may tinker with the cream filling some more- I think a little lemon would be good, but at that point, it's nearly the tart version of my signature pizza. For the onion fans out there, though, here's my Ultimate Onion Tart:

- 1/2 pound puff pastry

- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
- a few grindings of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I think you can omit this but can't say for sure)

- 7 slices of bacon
- 2 medium onions, sliced thin (4 cups or so)

Roll out the puff pastry to a 1/8 inch thickness. You can cut this into 4 8 inch disks, or you can cut it into whatever random shape your little heart desires. Prick the disks all over with a fork (ALL OVER- you don't want it puffing too much) and then put on an oiled or nonstick baking sheet or a silpat. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1/2 hour or more.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Cut the bacon slices into 1 inch strips. Cook in a skillet until they are almost done but not quite and put on a paper towel to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon or two of the bacon grease (this direction sounds crazy to me every time I read it, and it's not in the original recipe, but whenever I am told to do this what I do is scoop out the 1 or 2 tbsp of fat and put them in a bowl/glass/ramekin whatever. Then I pour out all the rest of the fat and return what I need to the skillet. That makes much more sense to me than just guessing how much I should leave in the skillet).

Cook the onions covered, on low, in the bacon fat for 5-10 minutes or so until super tender. They'll look browned, from the bacon fat, but they actually aren't. If bacon fat grosses you out, use butter. Add a pinch or two of salt and continue to cook uncovered, 5 or 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up a bit and cook until they are actually browned. Remove from the pan and let cool to tepid. (Tepid. That's Andre Soltner's word, not mine.)

Whisk the cottage cheese until smooth. (You could also do this in a food processor, and someday after Christmas I likely will- in the mini bowl of my Cobalt Blue KitchenAid, if Santa/Jeff loves me, and as I told Santa/Jeff while whisking last night. But whisking is not particularly arduous and it doesn't have to be smooth smooth smooth, just fairly smooth.) Add the creme fraiche and salt and pepper and flour and vegetable oil and whisk some more. Or process, whatever works. (I did use vegetable oil last night, despite my fear that it would be greasy. It wasn't, but I don't know that it's necessary, either.)

To assemble the tarts, spread the cheese mixture over each puff pastry disk or random shape, leaving 1/4 inch border. You may also want to fold over the border, making a height barrier to the spread of the cheese. I highly recommend this, especially if you feel the need to use all of the cheese mixture, like I do.

Sprinkle the bacon over the cheese mixture. Strew the onions over that.

Bake for 15 minutes or so. You could eat these at room temperature or warm, but I can't imagine waiting for them to get to room temp.