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Onion and Thyme Tart

Want a recipe for a quiche-like tart that tastes like French onion soup? Well, this onion and thyme tart might be for you. It is a perfect vegetarian dinner or brunch when served with a nice mesclun salad. We had a fresh-picked salad with our dinner. This was not the prettiest tart I’ve made, but it was good. Looking forward to having the leftovers for brunch. This is the dish I served when we had a blind installing party at our “new” house. Matt and I bought our house when it was at about 85% completion. There were no window treatments when we moved. Matt put up darkening shades in the bedrooms and a stained glass window in the kitchen. But other than that, naked windows – not pretty. A year later, still no window treatments. To be fair, we had lots of stuff happen the first few months after we bought the house – had major surgery, Mom died, we got married(!), had frostbite (yes, in Alabama), had a pseudo femoral aneurysm, broke my foot, etc. Decorating wasn’t exactly our top priority. After a year, when things finally settled down, we decided it was time to change that.

We looked into buying wooden shutters to match the style of the house. Wow, those are expensive and not easy to install when you have goofy sized windows (many thanks to our builder!). We then looked at Costco and we were shocked at the price of blinds plus installation. That’s where they get you – the installation! We knew two couples who had just bought blinds and they suggested we look at J.C. Penney. They even offered to help us install them (did I mention that Matt and I are not the handiest folks?). We went to JCP and picked out the perfect Levolor top down/bottom up blinds. About a week later, the boxes arrived! It was time for installation. Marshall, Melanie, Richard, and Sherry came over with their drills. I made us dinner: an onion tart, salad, dessert, and Prosecco. I cooked while our friends worked with Matt to install the blinds. In two hours they were all hung! It is so nice having handy friends with drills (and the extra privacy is nice too)!  Hope you like the recipe; it is great for serving at “work parties.”

Onion and Thyme Tart

Crust for 9-inch tart pan (your favorite recipe)*

2 tablespoons butter (or canola oil)

2 pounds onions (about 6 cups sliced)**

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (I removed the leaves and chopped them)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup half-and-half

½ teaspoon ground black pepper (or ¼ teaspoon white pepper, if you prefer)

Dash of grated nutmeg

¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese (Swiss, Emmentaler, or Parmesan cheese also works)

Preheat the oven to 375º. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan. If there are any gaps in your pan, it will prevent a mess in your oven and it also promotes even baking. You might even want to cover the sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil as an extra precaution. My pan isn’t very nice and it leaks. Line the tart pan with the crust. Finish the edges so it looks pretty, I’m not very good at this, so I won’t offer any suggestions :).

Blind-bake (pre-bake) the pie shell. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is larger than the tart pan. Lightly grease one side of the foil. Gently press the foil, with the greased side down, into the tart shell. Fill the shell with pie weights. What are pie weights? They are little ceramic or stainless steel balls that are sold for blind-baking pie crusts. They are fairly expensive so I keep a bag of dried peas just for this purpose.

Bake for about 25 minutes on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Remove the tart shell from the oven. Carefully gather the edges of the foil and remove the foil with the weights (dried peas). Return crust to the oven and bake another 5 minutes until lightly golden brown.

While the crust is pre-baking you can work on “sweating” the onions. They aren’t quite caramelized but they are a nice golden brown. In a large skillet that has a lid, melt the butter. Add the sliced onions, thyme, and salt. Stir to “break up” some of the large pieces of onions. Cover with the lid and cook on medium high heat for about 15 minutes. You want the onions to sweat out any excess liquid. Stir. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook another 20 minutes. Stir a few times during this process and see how much liquid there is remaining. If there is a pool of liquid, then keep uncovered and cook until golden brown. If there is no pool of liquid, you can keep it covered. If you are like me, you might get impatient with this step, please resist turning up the heat. In an instant, 30 minutes of work can turn into a burned goo. I turned the temperature up to medium, turned my back to fiddle with something else, and almost burned my onions!

Once the onions are golden, remove from the heat and cool. To speed up the process, I remove them from the pan, and put them in a bowl that is large enough to hold the onions, the eggs, and the half-and-half.

After the onions cool, add the eggs, half-and-half, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until just combined. Pour into the baked tart shell. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for about 20 more minutes. You want it golden brown and not too jiggly. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Once cool, remove the tart pan ring. Slice and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings

*Crust: Homemade crust is the best, but sometimes you just want a shortcut. When I want a quick tart, then I use a refrigerated pre-rolled crust. I like Immaculate Baking Company’s pie crust. Locally, in Huntsville, you can get them at Earth Fare and sometimes The Fresh Market. When I see them on sale, I buy a few and keep them in the freezer. If you want to make this really simple and you do not have a tart pan, you could use a regular pie plate or frozen crust already in a pie plate. The result would just be more quiche-like than tart. But it would still be tasty.

**Onions: Use plain yellow or white onions. It is tempting to use one of the sweet varieties that is abundant now, but they don’t work as well. I’ve tried this tart with Vidalia onions and they are too sweet with too much moisture. Not sure about purple onions, haven’t tried them. Two pounds of onions is about five medium onions. To be sure, just weigh them at the market and buy between 1½-2 pounds. Sounds like a lot of onions, but they cook down. You want uniform onion slices so they cook evenly. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to cut the onion in half from root to stem. Then you get a nice level surface that makes cutting easier. After cutting in half, peel the onion, and slice into ¼-inch slices.

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