Monday, March 13, 2006

caramelized onion and bacon tart

Dispensing Happiness is hosting a blog party. How fun is that? Does anyone else love word play as much as I do, I wonder? And how is it that this is the eighth party already, and I'm only just finding out about it? Echoes of high school ... seems like there was always something fun going on that I got wind of way later than everyone else. But that's a story for another day.

The theme for this blog party is brunch. Now, mind you, we're not talking about your average everyday brunch. Nosiree. This is brunch that you serve with cocktails, and finger food, and probably has more in common with happy hour than the after-church affair you might be thinking of. Brunch as appetizers. Genius! After all, who wants to get up early to cook brunch? Not night owl me! I love brunch, but I don't like getting up at the crack of dawn. So over the years I have sought and found many recipes that allow me to do most of the work the night before, and then assemble & pop in the oven an hour before it's needed. But even that is a story for another day!

I served this caramelized onion and bacon tart in precisely this fashion just a few weeks ago, when I had hordes of ravenous twenty-somethings --- terrifying, the appetite one has at that age --- OK, not hordes, but 12 or 14 --- coming over to dinner. I had made my menu plan, but then had second thoughts about whether there would be enough food. So, the day before the dinner, I set out to make this tart. (You don't need to do it the day before, but it was helpful to me to get some of it ready so as to not be totally slaving over the stove the day of the visit.)

Cut into small pieces, and with napkins alongside, it made perfect finger food. Every bit of it was snapped up (as was every bit of the rest of the meal, so I guess it's good I made it). The caramelized onions are so sweet that people asked whether the recipe had apples in it. Try it yourself, and see!

But first, some hints: Half the trick to this scrumptious recipe is a light hand with the pastry. Handle it very, very gently. The second half of the trick is to roll out the crust on a piece of floured parchment or waxed paper, then invert your baking dish over the crust and turn it all upside down to transfer this light crust without breaking it. If you do break it ... no problem! Pinch it together and, if it shows, everyone will know that you didn't get it out of a box. You can't lose, either way.

The third half of the trick is patience with the onions. Cook them slowly on a low heat to let their natural sugars emerge.

I got this recipe from Yankee Magazine, and tweaked it a bit (more eggs, less sage) to get a recipe that seemed just right to me. By the way, I've gotten lots of great recipes from Yankee Magazine. Not a place most of us would think of turning to for recipes, but there you have it.

Makes 12-16 appetizers.

Pastry
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T shortening
6 T unsalted butter, cold
2-3 T ice water
  • In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the flour and salt.
  • Add shortening and butter and pulse until batter just starts to come together, as little as possible. It's OK if there are small lumps of unblended butter.
  • Open lid. Sprinkle in 2 T cold water. Pulse to combine, as little as possible. Add more if needed.
  • Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • On a floured surface, roll out dough so that it's 2 inches longer and wider than your tart pan. Transfer to pan and tuck and trim edges.
  • Line pastry with foil and fill with dried beans to keep crust from shrinking.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Remove foil and weights and continue baking until crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Cool to room temperature.

Filling
½ lb (about 9 strips) bacon
2 large vidalia or white onions, sliced thin
1 tsp butter
3 sage leaves, thinly sliced
3-4 large eggs
1/2 c half-and-half
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves for garnish

Slice the bacon crosswise into ¼-inch strips. In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon until done but not crisp. Remove bacon, reserving grease, and drain on paper towels.

I like to use thick-sliced bacon, and usually I'll choose Garfield's because I know their quality is good. The picture to the right shows about the right level of doneness. I noticed when I cooked it that the fat foamed just before it was done the way I wanted it. But I haven't repeated the experiment to see if that would reliably tell you when to stop the cooking, so try it yourself, and please let me if it works out that way for you, too. Sometimes these things have more to do with the phase of the moon or the humidity level or something than anything related to what/how you're cooking!

Reduce the heat under your pan to low. Add onions and butter to the pan with the reserved grease. Yep, butter with the reserved grease. Not to worry. We'll get rid of most of it later.

Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they turn a caramel brown color, about 30 minutes.

Turn off heat. Drain the excess fat (I use a paper towel to soak up as much of it as I can). Add the sage and the chopped bacon. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk the eggs and half-and-half together. I would think you could get away with using Egg Beaters and/or fat-free half and half here, but again, I haven't tried it so can't vouch for it. Whisk in the salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350. Spoon cooled onion and bacon mixture into pastry shell. Pour egg mixture over it. Bake until the tart is set, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Cool at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves.

MAKE AHEAD PLAN

Up to 3 days ahead

Cook bacon, onions, cool, mix well, store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Day before

Make crust, cool completely, wrap tightly and store at room temperature.
Combine eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.
Chop sage, store in refrigerator.

One to two hours before serving

Combine bacon mixture and sage; spread in bottom of crust.
Shake or stir egg mixture, pour over.
Bake as directed.

Note: To use a 9" tart or pie pan:
Use the same amount of bacon and onions, 3-4 large eggs, 3/4 c half-and-half, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.


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2 comments:

Stephanie said...

It's wonderful! I'm happy you found out about my little shindig; it's ok, there's still a lot of people in the dark!

I'm with you on the sage...I have a super-easy breakfast casserole (from Vegetarian Times) recipe which calls for it, and I have to cut the sage down by at least half.

Which is ironic, as our sage plant was our best growing herb last year!

Babycakes said...

This sounds heavenly!
Emily aka biscuits and blues