Alsatian Onion Tart

  • by Sally Stewart

The Tarte à l'oignon is a savory onion tart from the Alsace region in France. It is an open-face pie that is filled with a rich and flavorful custard of eggs, onions and (sometimes) and/or bacon and cheese. It was traditionally a common dish among working class folk, because the pie ingredients tended to be plentiful and inexpensive and incredibly satisfying.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 6 small to medium onions
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese (aged if you like more intense flavor)
  • 1 1/4 cup half & half
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

Pastry dough: (or use prepared pie shell)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup very cold ice water 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher

Preparation:

1. Pour yourself a glass of wine.

2. Heat the oil and butter in a cast-iron or other heavy large 10 to 12-inch skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat, stirring oFrench, until they begin to soften, about 30 minutes. They should reduce about half in volume.

3. Add thyme leaves and 2 cups of water and continue to cook the onions until extremely soft and stir frequently until all the water is cooked off, about 30 to 45 minutes. The goal is to “melt” the onions until they are entirely soft with no crunch remaining. You may cover the pan partially while cooking to speed things up.

4. Heat the oven to 425°F.  Roll out your pie dough and place in your pie dish. Gently place parchment paper or foil in the shell, and weigh down with dried beans or rice. Blind bake the pie shell in the oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove pie shell and weights and let cool slightly before adding the filling. Turn oven down to 350°F.

5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and half and half. Season with 3/4 tsp salt and fresh ground black pepper, and the nutmeg. Add the onions and 1/3 of the cheese and mix well. Sprinkle 1/3 of cheese on the bottom of the partially baked pie shell. Fill the prepared pie shell with the custard mix and with the remaining cheese and bake until the tip of a knife comes out clean and the top of the tart is puffed and brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Place a sheet pan under the pie dish to catch any drips. Let cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes before serving. 

6. Serve with a salad and a simple vinaigrette.

7. Profit.

Pie dough instructions (for food processor)

1. Add the flour, salt and sugar (optional) to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.

2. Scatter butter cubes over flour, place the lid on the food processor and drizzle the water onto the dough while pulsing the blades. Continue until all the water is poured in and dough looks crumbly.

3. Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using). In this recipe were using all the dough. 

The Wine:

What better pairing for this dish than a wine the from the same region from the region? Riesling from Alsace in distinctly different comparison to other regions where Riesling is grown and made. Alsace is one of the driest grape growing region in France. The Vosges Mountains essentially block rain clouds that roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. The resulting wines are ripe, rich and dry. The sites that get the most sun produce super ripe and luscious expressions of dry Riesling. This Riesling is rich andfull bodied a perfect pairing with the sweetness of the onions in the tart. 

 

 

 

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