Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cooking: Onion/Pastry Project

I have a list of Long Lost Foods that I mourn. Examples that have been floating in and out of my hungry consciousness lately include:
  • The eggy-bread buns that they used to sell at a bakery at the Fancy Mall, the ones that they slashed across the top and doused with greasy onions cooked to a near-caramelized state and mixed with ittybitty bits of something hamlike.
  • The gloriously fatty shallow onion tart with a fine, flaky crust and ittybitty bits of something baconlike that they used to sell at a nearby pseudo-French restaurant. It was also served with a few random sprouts, some cornichons, and some really good olives.
  • The gigantic deep onion tart, with a little bit of bacon, that they used to sell at a French restaurant in Vancouver. Well, no, they still sell it, but Vancouver is, well, Vancouver. I can't just run down there for lunch. Also, last time I tried it it didn't seem quite greasy enough, and they warned me about the bacon. Now, I appreciate that a restaurant might warn a patron about an apparently-vegetarian dish that emphatically isn't, but I worry that they might be developing qualms about saturated fat. And that would just be wrong.
You're seeing the theme here, right? Fat, caramelized onions, pastry, and bits of pig. The bits of pig are optional - the more I read about the high intelligence of pigs, the closer I get to finding ways to get along without bacon. But nobody ever made friends with an onion, so I've decided that it's time to lay off the helpless longing thing and take control of my greasy onion pastry supply. The eggy buns demonstrate a level of breadmaking talent that I'm unlikely to achieve, so I'm hunting for tart recipes.

Recipes with a halfhearted attitude toward onion caramelization are scored down in my book - anyone that tells me to cook the onions for a paltry twenty minutes, or tells me to add sugar, or refers to "pale golden" onions, isn't getting my point. Caramelized onions should be cooked slowly until neither you or the onion can take any more waiting - forty minutes, an hour, maybe a little more. They should be brown and shriveled - no "golden" or "translucent" or "starting to soften" about it.

And Walla Walla and Vidalia onions are right out, though I won't throw out the recipe, I'll just ignore the onion recommendation. In my book, "sweet" onions don't just have less heat, they have less flavor - a shortage of the volatile stuff and the sugar. I want rock-hard, sugar-filled onions that make me cry when I slice them. If I ever get my hands on those Copra onions that I keep dreaming about, I'll use them for this.

And I'm skipping the tarts with a quiche/custard base - I haven't mastered those skills yet. And the ones with a top crust. And the ones with things like clams, figs, or apples. On the other hand, olives, cheese, anchovies, and crispy bits of pig are just fine. Even if I perhaps decide to skip the pig.

I'm looking at the following candidates:
That looks like plenty to start with.

Image: By Flik R. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. If you can find them - get ahold of some "Centurian" onions. They are so strong you have to peel them bits at a time and run away to wipe your eyes, before coming back to finish the job!

    Good luck.

  2. Ooh?! Thanks, zen! I'll remember that!

  3. I tend to put a tablespoon of Muscavado sugar in a pan (heavy bottomed, or it'll melt) over the heat and gently stir until it melts (up to 15 minutes), then add a knob of butter (it will spit, so be careful), and a pile of chopped onions. Let them cook nice and slow, until they are fall-apart soft. Take your time; the onions must be right. Then I make discs of puff pastry, pile on the onions, add a strong cheese like stilton or a blue goat cheese if you can get it, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and chuck them in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

    Basic, easy but bloody tasty with a chilled glass of White Burgundy!

  4. Hey, TIG! Hmmm. That does sound good. Maybe sugar would be just fine.