When normal people go to a party, they think things like, “Who’ll be there? Who should I bring?” and of course, “What should I wear?” When I’m invited, the first thing that pops in my mind is “What will I bring?”
Fiesta Friday’s extravaganza of a block party is no exception, and after much inner debate, I settled on this gorgeous, free-form Caramelized Onion Galette. Here’s my thought process when choosing an appetizer for a party, and my thanks to Arianna Bolini and Buzzfeed for the photos from her post, 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes:
I was excited when I first got the invitation. I leafed through my favorite cookbooks for inspiration. I wanted just the right thing. Something frugal, of course, but fantastic. Something that had just the right level of sophistication without being overly fussy. And something that didn’t require a lot of equipment that not everyone would have. Alas, that would leave out the lovely fondue on the left.
Then it came to mind that a salad featuring local ingredients might just be the right thing. Salads can be wonderful at a party, but they require a plate. Perhaps something that could be easily picked up would be better as an appetizer. Unfortunately, although Spam is local to Minnesota, in January, the Lima Beans are only available in their frozen state. *sighs.*
I leafed through my recipe box and thought about the parties I’d been to recently. Nothing seemed right. Everything seemed somehow too too common, too overdone. Although Ina Garten says, “…food is not about impressing people, it’s about making them feel comfortable,” I did want to impress a bit. I think we all want to be at our best and bring our best to such a festive occasion like the Fiesta Friday one year anniversary party!
Then I thought, perhaps a simple pate, like the one on the left, shaped like a pineapple, would be just the thing. And I dismissed it. The brininess of the olives would certainly cut through the richness of that cheese, but pate and cheese? It seemed a bit too show-offy, plus I just knew that there were many vegetarian bloggers coming to the party and I wanted something every one could enjoy. Plus the cheese covered Pate may be hard to transport.
Then my baby Sis saved the day. She had just come across a lovely recipe from Food & Wine, what they called a “Free Form Onion Tart.” That, of course, is a Galette, a lovely dish of caramelized onion enriched with a bit of crème fraîche, spiked with a touch of thyme, baked in a flaky, buttery crust. It seems to be a bit of a play on an Alsatian Tarte Flambée. I did modify the recipe just a bit, with better instructions and a minor touch or two of my own.
I really had to get cracking to get the recipe done. Not at all difficult, this is a recipe that takes rather ordinary ingredients and transforms them into something lovely, lush and elegant. And all that takes time. This is a great recipe to break down into parts, and do a little here or there in the preceding evenings.
- I wasn’t going to spend a bundle on crème fraîche when it’s so easily made at home, but a home-made takes about 24 hours (time varies widely according to the temperature, if you keep your house cool in the winter it can take longer) to alchemize into a lovely thick, rich marvel. I mixed that up a few days ahead (just to be sure) and put it in the fridge, ready to go.
- Then the onions, to properly caramelize, take time – a good hour or so, because this is a large pot of them. Recipe writers, even the best, often minimize the amount of time it takes, probably because they think no-one will make it if they really know. I always make extra because they’re like having gold – I’ll be posting a little surprise later in the week using them!
- The pastry crust, too, takes some time – after it’s mixed together it will need to sit in the fridge for about an hour before it’s rolled out. Overnight is just fine, too, but let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes or it might be just a bit too hard to roll.
Other than all that 🙂 this recipe is a piece of cake…er…galette! Nothing is especially difficult, nothing too fussy, just simple food lovingly prepared and offered. A luxurious dish with humble roots. This is very rich, so for an appetizer, consider cutting into small diamonds or squares rather than wedges.
I think I’ll bring the Gallette to the Fiesta Friday Fiesta Friday Anniversary Party at the Novice Gardener. She’s been hosting bloggers for a year, now, and giving us a platform to show off our best dishes. This, I’m hoping, will be just as big of a hit there as it is here.
Caramelized Onion Gallette
Note: I caramelize 3 pounds of onions (makes two cups) and set aside about a third for another use. These keep well for about a week, for longer storage put them in a heavy freezer bag and freeze.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
- 5 tablespoons ice cold water
In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Add butter cubes and toss to coat each with flour. Using your fingers or pastry cutter, pinch the butter into the flour until the mixture has small lumps about the size of peas. A few coarser lumps are just fine.
Drizzle the water over the flour and toss with a fork until mostly incorporated. Turn out on a counter and rub across the mixture two or three times. By now, the pastry should be mostly coming together with a few dry areas. Work on those areas by pinching and pushing them into the dough. If necessary add a few sprinkles of water.
Gather the dough together into a pile, gently flatten into a disk, wrap in parchment paper or plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Overnight is fine, too, and wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month. If refrigerated more than an hour, leave the dough at room temperature for 5 to 20 minutes before rolling out.
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough, from the center to edges, to a 12-inch round and transfer to a large baking sheet.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and lower oven rack to bottom rung.
Caramelized Onion Filling:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds onion, thinly sliced (I use three pounds and set aside 1/3)
- 3 thyme sprigs or 1/4 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup crème fraîche *
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk
- Sea or kosher salt, to sprinkle on crust
In a heavy skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and thyme and cook covered over medium heat, until softened, about 15 minutes. Remove lid and reduce the heat to moderately low and cook until the onions are dark golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes longer. Stir from bottom, scraping with a spatula, about every 10 minutes.
If very dark bits are beginning to form on the edges of the onions between stirring, turn the heat down a little. When desired color is reached, remove from the heat and discard the thyme stems. Let cool, stir in about three tablespoons of the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Set a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven or position a rack on the lowest rung and preheat the oven to 375°.
Working with the dough (which is now on a baking sheet), leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edges, spread the remaining crème fraîche on the bottom of the tart. Gently dollop the onions around, carefully nudging them into an even layer with out disturbing the thin layer of crème fraîche.
Working with about a two-inch section of dough at a time, fold and tuck the dough up and over the edges of the filling. Best results are had by working around the tart in one direction. Brush any visible dough with the egg wash and sprinkle a little coarse salt on the wash.
Bake the tart on the bottom shelf for about 40 minutes, until the dough is richly browned on the bottom. If necessary, transfer the tart to the top shelf and bake for about 5 minutes longer, until the top of the crust is browned.
Transfer the tart to a rack and let cool slightly. Cut into wedges, diamonds or squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any left overs.
* No crème fraîche? An emergency substitute can be made by mixing 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 cream together. No cream? Simply thin out sour cream just a bit with some milk or buttermilk.
The onions for this tart, plus a little extra (3 pounds total) took me about 75 minutes to make. The time could have been sped up a bit with a bit more babysitting and frequent stirring.
I prefer to let them go slow and low, stirring about every 10 minutes or so, until the very end, where I stick around and stir them as needed.