Oh man y’all, do you see what I am contending with down here? This terrifying beast sits perched in my adopted kitchen right in the most convenient, useful bit of counter space and blocking the most gorgeous square of natural light for photos. The things I have to deal with. But luckily, contrary to all appearances, he is not actually mean, and is quite light, so I just move him around and he hasn’t yet protested. I tread lightly though, I suspect he could get tired of me horning in on his space at any time.
The other day I was trying to come up with something to make for dinner for Jenn, the lovely cousin who has been putting me up all this time, and me, and I thought of that onion tart I mentioned a couple posts ago. I have made it twice at home, once for a girls night, and once for cousin Molly and I, and it is really really good. It came from Orangette. I suspect no one is surprised. It is pretty basic, savory pate brisee (Martha has an easy straightforward one that I like – as does Molly) some softened onions, an egg and some heavy cream. The result is a sweet, oniony custardy tart that is universally pleasing and easy to put together. There were a couple of hitches in my plan. One, no tart pan in these parts. I went looking for one to no avail. My friends, they have wine at the Wal-Marts, but they do not have tart pans. They make interesting choices around here. The second is an absence of a food processor. I always make my pate brisee in the food processor, but I know back in those old timey days they did not, so I figured I would do without. I didn’t want to let a little thing like lack of proper appliances get in my way. A free form onion tart with a hand-made pate brisee was in order.
As it turns out, this was a taller order than I thought. Those colonial ladies had it rough. There was not a pastry cutter to be found either, so I went about cutting the butter into the flour with two butter knives. It took about a year and may have caused carpal tunnel. Three days later my left wrist still hurts.
This really was a pain in the neck, and I really wish I could say it wasn’t worth it, but that would be a lie. This crust was awesome. Flaky and buttery and really really good. I might have to take the time to make this by hand every time. It was perfect. And so much better than when the processor makes the butter pieces so small. There is almost no flake. I’m in trouble.
Luckily the rest of the tart was a breeze…
It only takes 15 minutes or so to cook the onions, then the egg and a 1/2 cup of cream get stirred together, poured into the onions and then the mixture is poured into the crust.
The whole thing is baked for 25 minutes or so until the crust is brown and the onions are golden.
We ate this with roasted asparagus and a lovely sauvignon blanc, and we were happy.
And bonus! This actually made enough for two tarts, and the second batch of dough was sitting in the fridge all forlorn, so yesterday I decided to do something about it.
Again, Orangette is involved. As I perused Molly Wizenberg’s blog, and read A Homemade Life, I came across the story and recipe for slow roasted tomatoes. I have had my eye on them forever, but since I have that pesky too hot oven problem at home, I have never been able to make them. Adopted kitchen saved the day! The recipe says to roast them for four to six hours on 200 degrees until they are sweet and delicious and awesome. I was trying to make the tart for dinner that night, and I didn’t get home from the store until 2 pm, so my roasted tomatoes were more inspired by Molly’s rather than exact replicas. I roasted them in a convection oven, which generally makes things move a little faster, with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on 200 for two hours and then raised the heat to 300 for two more hours. Still temperatures too low for my oven…
This is how it began…
And this is what transpired.
These were REALLY tasty, they get really sweet and the juice squirts out. Had I not given up pasta, I would be whipping up the leftovers into an awesome sauce right now, but alas…
Anyway, while my tomatoes were roasting, I made some ricotta, because I love it and haven’t made it in awhile. I missed it. As you do. It really is a piece of cake. My method came from Sassy Radish, who I believe in turn got it from Gourmet (RIP Gourmet, my dear friend) and it has been wildly successful every time. Whole milk, heavy cream, a pinch of salt and fresh lemon juice. I have also seen recipes that use whole milk and buttermilk. I have never tried that one, but might at some point.
The whole milk, heavy cream and salt get boiled over medium high heat while you stir occasionally to prevent scorching. When it boils, you add three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, reduce the heat to low, and stir until the mixture curdles.
You put the mixture through a cheesecloth lined sieve and let it drain.
That’s it…ricotta cheese. When it is as drained as you would like it, dump it in to a bowl, and you’re done!
Then I put it together.
A layer of ricotta on the rolled out crust, salt and pepper and then the tomatoes.
I cooked this for half and hour until the crust was golden and flaky and delicious, then I sprinkled basil and olive oil over the top and served.
This was even better than I expected. Don’t leave the olive oil drizzle out, it adds a little something, and is really delicious. The leftovers have also been awesome. This is one I will make again for sure. And my roomie liked it too.
Two tarts, two dinners, lots of leftovers, possible permanent damage to my wrists, a new way to make tart crust, and two recipes that will be made over and over and over.
And now we’ll tackle these recipes in pieces. First up? Pate Brisee.
Savory Pate Brisee (makes two 9-10″ tarts)
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a food processor) and stir (or pulse) to combine. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two butter knives (or pulse for 10 seconds) until the butter is about the size of peas. (Really, try this by hand, the processor is definitely easier, but it is really hard not to over process, doing it by hand will be tiring and take a while, but really is worth it once its baked.) Add the water a tablespoon at a time, and continue to cut dough together with the pastry cutter or knives (or process, for no more than 30 seconds TOTAL in the processor.) The dough is ready when it holds together when pinched or squeezed between your fingers.
Separate the dough into two equal piles on two pieces of plastic wrap, and wrap tightly in disc shapes. Refrigerate for at least one hour. It will keep for a couple of days in the fridge or quite some time in the freezer.
Alsatian Onion Tart (serves 6-8)
Adapted from Orangette
Half recipe of Pate Brisee
1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl butter
1 1/2 lbs (approx.) yellow onions halved and sliced thin.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough and line a tart pan, or for a free form tart, lay on a cookie sheet, and chill. Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together the cream and egg. When onions are ready, remove from heat and add the cream and egg mixture. Stir to combine and pour into the shell. For a free form tart, leave about an inch boundary and fold over on top of the onions. Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes until the shell is golden and flaky, and the filling is golden.
Ricotta Cheese (makes about 1.5 lbs)
From Sassy Radish
8 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
generous pinch of kosher salt
3 tbls fresh lemon juice
Heat milk, cream and salt over medium high heat in a large heavy bottomed pot. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When it boils, add the lemon juice and lower the heat stirring for two minutes or so until curds form and separate from the whey. Pour the cheese through a sieve lined with a cheese cloth and drain until the ricotta is as dry as you would like.
Adapted from Orangette
3-4 lbs tomatoes, preferably Roma, halved
kosher or coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Brush the cut sides of the tomatoes with olive oil (pastry brush is the easiest, fingers work just fine) and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a cookie sheet and roast for 4-6 hours. This time about two hours in I turned up the heat to 300 degrees for the second two hours. The tomatoes will look like this when they are done.
Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Cheese Tart (serves 8ish)
Half recipe of Pate Brisee
About a batch of fresh ricotta (or 1.5 lbs of store bought) – there will be a bit left over.
About a 3-4 lb batch of slow roasted tomatoes (You will need about 24 roasted tomato halves)
chiffonade of 4-5 large basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for drizzling.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough into a 12″ circle and lay on a cookie sheet. Spoon the ricotta onto the dough and spread into about a 1/4 inch layer, leaving a 1-1.5 inch border around the edge of the dough clear. Sprinkle the cheese with salt and pepper. Lay the tomatoes on the ricotta close enough to touch, and sprinkle the tomatoes with half of the basil. Fold the edges of the crust up over the tomatoes, and roast the tart for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden. Remove the tart from the oven, sprinkle with the rest of the basil and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Serve and enjoy!
(As you can tell, this recipe is full of estimates and approximations. Just go with it….)