Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. I usually spend the weeks before going through my cookbooks, websites, magazines; not to mention my notes & files of recipes. All in preparation for this one day, and this one meal. I outline different menus, make adjustments to recipes, and go through careful consideration until I end up with a meal I feel is worthy of the holiday. But not this year. This year Brian and I will be on a much needed and awaited vacation to London. It has been four years since we have gone away and treated ourselves; and even when we last went away it was only for four days. This time we will be gone for eight days…and to a foreign country no less. Yes. I think you can say I am just a tad excited. And I realized this week that I treat my vacations much like Thanksgiving. I scour through books, websites, recommendations and start making lists. I then break the list down into neighborhoods so when we happen upon any of them I have a can’t miss mission. Does it drive Brian a bit nuts? Maybe a tad, but he has admitted that we do end up seeing a lot.
I was getting our vacation list ready when I started to think about how I needed to make use of all the food we have in the kitchen. Looking over at the bowl of onions on the counter and the pate brise in the refrigerator I was reminded of a recipe I wanted to test out for a future “holiday” meal. Now was as good a time as any; besides it will make me feel in the spirit of Thanksgiving – even if we were not to be celebrating. The recipe was for a Caramelized Onion and Manchego Cheese Tart and I thought it would make a fantastic appetizer.
Let me just say that for something that was thrown together in order to make use of your perishables before they go bad was divine; and most definitely holiday worthy. I savored every bite of it as I did my “vacation” research. The loveliness of the sweet and tender caramelized onions are deglazed with a mixture of brandy and freshly squeezed orange juice. To this mixture you add a bit of savory with some Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, and the Manchego Cheese. It was all baked together and cooled slightly before slicing and serving. I will admit to having seconds and it made my vacation research go smoothly. I am glad I finally got to make this savory tart, even if it wasn’t for a holiday like I had originally thought. Hopefully you can make it for yours. I know your guests will be pleased.
Caramelized Onion and Manchego Cheese Tart (Makes a 10 – 12 inch tart)
(Note: I used a new rectangular tart pan for this recipe, but any old tart pan in any shape will be just fine.)
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp of butter
1 tsp of kosher salt
¼ cup of brandy
Juice of 1 orange
1 heaping tsp of Dijon
2 tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cup of grated Manchego Cheese
½ recipe of Pate Brise
First, roll out your chilled Pate Brise until it is about ¼ inch thick and place it into your tart pan and into the freezer to thoroughly chill. Meanwhile; place a large, wide bottomed sauté pan over medium to low heat. Heat through and melt you butter. Once your butter is melted you can add in your onions, stirring them frequently. (Remember that although your onions will he heaping in the pan at first- the longer you cook them, the more they will decrease in volume.)
Next, let the onions cook and simmer together. You will need to stir them often to be sure they are not sticking or burning. Once they begin to soften you can sprinkle the kosher salt over them. The onions will begin to color and begin to have bits stick to the bottom of your pan. This is normal, but you need to continually stir them so they evenly “color” and scrap up the bits of stuck on pieces to the pan. You are looking for the onions to become evenly golden brown. You will also need to preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Then, you will remove your prepared tart pan from your freezer and dock it with a fork all over. You will then line your pate brise with parchment and fill it with some dried bean (a.k.a pie weights) and place in the oven for 20 minutes to par bake. Remove from the oven and set aside for later. Meanwhile, checking on your onions for your desired color and still stirring them; in a bowl whisk together your Dijon, brandy, and orange juice. Pour this mixture over your browned onions and stir to release any bits of your mixture that mat have stuck to the bottom of your pan and also until your liquid is reduced to a pasty consistency with the onions. Remove from the heat and fold in your Manchego Cheese and thyme.
Finally, remove the parchment and beans from your tart bottom. Place your onion mixture evenly across the bottom of your tart bottom and sprinkle with some fresh black pepper. Place the prepped tart back into the oven for about 30 – 40 minutes. You are looking for the filling to be bubbly and browned, with the edge of the crust golden. Remove from the oven and cool about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and serving. Best to be eaten warm or at room temperature.