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Taste of the Season: Busy, Busy, Busy

Westhampton cookbook author Margaret Johnson shares her recipes for Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart and Potato-Bacon-Leek Tart

Credit: Margaret Johnson
Credit: Margaret Johnson

Editor's Note: Margaret M. Johnson is the author of 10 cookbooks, most recently “Christmas Flavors of Ireland” available on amazon.com. To order a signed copy, email Margaret at irish1cook@aol.com.

First comes Thanksgiving, and we’re all about turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. Black Friday next, and the chaos begins in earnest with take-out meals and the frenzy that comes with the start of the holiday shopping season. Well into it now: stop for a minute and try one of these very simple-but-delicious tarts that can be made “from scratch” or with everyone’s favorite “cheat” — prepared or frozen pie crusts.

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart

Serves 6

Tart Pastry

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted Irish butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. cold water

 Filling

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Thyme sprigs for garnish

 1. Into a food processor fitted with a metal blade, sift the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse 8–10 times or until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the machine running, add the egg yolk and just enough water to combine the dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour and up to 3 days. (The dough can be frozen at this point for up to 2 months.)

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 in. circle. Press the dough into a tart pan with removable bottom, leaving a 1/2 in. overhang around the rim.

4. Fold in the excess dough to form thick edges. Prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cut a piece of foil or parchment to fit the pan, and top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

5. Remove weights and parchment and bake for 10–15 minutes more, or until the bottom is browned. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Reduce heat to 350°F.

6. To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and thyme and cook for 3–5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not browned. Add the sugar and cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool. Strain off excess liquid and spread the onion mixture evenly over the baked pastry. Sprinkle the cheese over the onions.

7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cheese and onions and bake for 35–40 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is set. To serve, cut into slices and garnish with thyme sprigs.

Potato-Bacon-Leek Tart

Serves 6–8

Prepare tart crust as above, or use prepared or frozen piecrust and bake according to package directions.

Filling

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 4 leeks (white part only), washed and sliced
  • 6 large eggs
  • One (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

1. To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, turning frequently, for 7–9 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside. Melt the butter in the same skillet, add the leeks, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until soft but not browned. Remove from the heat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream cheese, mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir in the leeks and bacon. Pour the filling into the baked pastry shell and bake for 35–40 minutes or until the filling is firm. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into slices.

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