I was a childhood cooking-show junkie. On sick days at home, while other children would spend their days watching music videos on MTV and “You Can’t Do That on Television” on Nickelodeon, I watched PBS. Hours spent watching Jeff Smith, Martin Yan, Justin Wilson and “The Great Chefs” series. “The Great Chefs” series made me want to become a chef; Martin Yan made me want to be an entertainer, and Justin Wilson just reminded me of my family (not at all cajun but they were a bit of a wacky southern group).
I hated most vegetables though, so I would watch the cooks make recipe after recipe looking for something wonderful that was free of onions, tomatoes, celery and peppers. There was a show I cannot remember the name of with a cook whose name and face are a distant memory; I distinctly remember watching him make a chicken fricassee. It looked so good, and I remember thinking that I would eat it, regardless of onions or no onions. Watching him make this dish made me realize that if I wanted to be a professional cook, that I was going to have to eat the things I did not like.
I’ve written before about teaching myself to like vegetables, one vegetable at a time, by learning how to properly prepare each one. To like onions, I started by teaching myself to make good caramelized onions; not just browned onions, but good and properly melty, gooey, sweet and sticky caramelized onions. Once I had that down, I was in love. Onions show up in just about everything of mine. I think my childhood self would H-A-T-E having me as their parent; and I think I would get really annoyed with my childhood self because the little brat wouldn’t eat anything I made for her. While not little kid-friendly, this tart will agree with older kids and pretty much everyone else. Sweet Vidalia onions, which are in season right now, are the onion of choice, but other sweet onions will work as well.
This recipe is all about balancing flavors. The sweet onions are balanced by briny feta, tangy balsamic vinegar, spicy black pepper and herby thyme. The crust is part of the flavor, not just a shell to hold it. It becomes part of the whole picture, so don’t cut corners and use a pre-made crust. The crust can be a little crumbly, but a rustic look works here, so just work with it until you have a roundish shape and it’s okay if it isn’t perfect; because that is perfect. Enjoy!
Caramelized Onion Tart with Feta and Balsamic
This tart is a fantastic snack, but also makes a wonderful meal when paired with a salad. I love the sheen of the egg wash on the crust, but you could easily leave that out to make this egg free.
1 Recipe Savory Pastry Dough
2 pounds Vidalia Onion (or other sweet onion)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus another 1/2 teaspoon to garnish
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg yolk
Peel the onions and slice very thin; I used a food processor. Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onions and salt. Cover the onions and let cook until they release their liquid, about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook slowly, stirring frequently until evenly brown and greatly reduced; about another 25 minutes.
Add the thyme and balsamic vinegar and cook another two minutes to let the thyme release its flavor. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough to form a roughly 15 inch circle.
Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper and spread the onion in a 12 inch circle in the middle of the dough. Sprinkle the feta on to the exposed onion filling.
Turn the edges of the dough over, tucking under any uneven edges to form a 1 1/2 inch edge over the top of the onion filling.
Brush the edges with a light coating of egg wash. Move the tart to a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is a nice even brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.