Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Tale Of Two Savory Tarts

I am a big fan of tarts (the human variety aren't bad either), so I am always trying to find something that will go in a tart shell.  Now I have to admit that I usually go for the sweet varieties in the tart family but this time I wanted to explore some of the savory family members.  The other day I had found myself obsessed with making a apple Tarte Tatin, but I remembered that I had a huge bag of Cippolini onions that I had just bought that needed a purpose to their lives so I thought I would switch gears and go with an onion Tarte Tatin.  Coming from a family of avid pie connoisseurs the mechanics of a Tart Tatin just doesn't make sense, and pair that with the obsessive compulsive in me and I just want to scream "it's f%&*!#% upside down damn it!"  But like many things in life, the things that make the least sense are sometimes the best, and a good Tarte Tatin is just that.........the best.  So I decided to embark on my onion Tarte Tatin adventure, challenging the OCD in me and the sudden urge to just chuck it all and stick with apples, which I know are delicious and a sure thing (tart, sure thing............should go hand in hand right?).

Note: The crusts for both of the tarts listed here are adapted from Linda Dannenberg's recipe for Pate Sablee, featured in her cookbook French Tarts: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes

Onion Tarte Tatin

Pate Sablee (adapted from Linda Dannenberg):
8 tablespoons cold butter diced
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Comte finely shredded
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 egg beaten
4 tablespoons ice water
Filling :
2 lbs Cippolini onions peeled and sliced in half
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

To prepare crust, in a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and flour together until it has a fine crumbly texture.  Add the cheese and thyme and process a little more until combined.  Drizzle the egg and water over the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together into a solid mass.  Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator while you assemble the filling.
Preheat the broiler and melt the butter for the filling in a large saucepan over medium heat (if you're a lucky soul and have a Tarte Tatin pan, use that......I am unfortunately not one of those people).  Add the onions, being careful not to break them apart.  Cook the onions until they are nice and caramelized on one side then add 1 cup of the Balsamic and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.  Once the vinegar is reduced sprinkle the chopped thyme over the onions and place the onions under the broiler and broil them until they are caramelized on top, about 2-3 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the broiler and then add the last cup of Balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully arrange the onions in a 9 inch cake pan or pie plate, pouring all the Balsamic syrup over the onions.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the plastic wrap from the chilled dough and roll out until the dough is about and 1/8th of an inch thick (there will be extra dough left over, I just freeze it and save it for other delicious things!).  Trim the dough down to about 10 inches in diameter and place over the onions.  You can crimp the edges to make it very pretty, but you're going to invert the damn thing and ruin it so you really don't have to put in that much effort.  Place tart in the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 35 minutes.  Once the tart is done simply remove it from the oven, place your serving plate over the tart and invert!  This tart is definitely an example of how going against logic can end in the best result, and for me, as a biochemist, going against logic is a very hard thing to do.

Now onto the second savory tart, which was inspired by a longing for summer to never die, and wishing for a land where tomatoes are delicious all year (oh, wait, that would be Italy).  So even though we are at the very end of our tomato season here (if not just past it) I was able to find the last of a few local heirloom tomatoes at the market and decided to tart them up, and since I have been on a blue cheese kick lately I thought I would include some variety of it in this recipe as well.  So I decided to go for Cambozola, which I know is a bastard cheese, some mutant cross between a Camembert and a Gorgonzola.  That being said, it is still delicious, with a creamy texture of a Camembert but with the sharpness in flavor of a Gorgonzola, but a bit milder. If you have an aversion to blue cheese, Brie would be a yummy substitution for this tart or even one of Cambozola's parents, Camembert.  To be honest one of these cheeses may be used for this tart in the future.

Tomato and Cambozola Tart

Pate Sablee (Adapted from Linda Dannenberg):
8 tablespoons cold butter diced
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Parmesan finely shredded
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 egg beaten
4 tablespoons ice water

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 lbs large heirloom or Beefsteak tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/4 lb Cambozola or Brie sliced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut the top off the garlic bulb and place on a sheet of foil.  Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and wrap the garlic in the foil.  Bake for about 45 minutes until the garlic is very soft and tan in color.  Meanwhile prepare the crust following the same procedure for the onion Tarte Tatin.  Chill dough for about 30 minutes then roll out until the pastry is about 1/8th of an inch thick. 

Trim pastry down to a 12 inch diameter circle and press into a 9 inch tart pan, trimming any excess pastry from the edge.  Remove the garlic cloves from the bulb and spread the roasted garlic over the tart shell.  Layer the sliced cheese over the garlic, followed by the tomatoes.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt and pepper, followed by the Parmesan and the oregano. 

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the tomatoes and bake the tart at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the tart is golden in color.  This tart is really best served at room temperature, so let it rest if you can........which I was not able to.  I have never been big on the whole patience thing, even though my mother says it's a virtue.

Whew! There you go, a tart marathon (there should be more of those in life).  So hopefully this inspires you to venture into tart insanity, and especially pay a visit to the savory tart family, I promise you won't be disappointed.

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