onion tart with mustard and fennel – smitten kitchen

More than six months ago, I had a dinner party and auditioned a then-new recipe for one of my favorite middle-of-the-freezing-winter dinner party dishes (short ribs) that was so good, I still weep a little when I recall it. I made a tarte tatin that was… well, it needed a little more cooking, and perhaps a Molly intervention And I made this onion tart, and we ate it with the cheese “course” and it was perfect in every way.


So why are you only hearing about it today? Well, as is all too common when I have people over, I forget to take pictures. Any pictures. I have not a single picture of either dish from that night. I am still not over it. I have brought shame to the food blogger community.

yeast, water, egg, flour

But when something is good, and oh, this was very, very good, opportunities will always arise to make it again. Like the fact that it’s Tuesday, and your friends cannot live on cauliflower salad alone. So onion tart it is, and you know what? It was even better this time. Onions that have been tenderly caramelized in olive oil for an hour with fennel seeds, crusted with some parmesan top a Dijon-brushed bready tart base, and it is a delight.

fennel seeds

My only regret? This guy who cleaned up the entire apartment after the party didn’t save the last two slices. But you know, I am bright enough to know better than to air a grievance with someone who washes dishes at 1:30 a.m. so I can take a nap on the sofa. Instead, I’ll just have to make more.

onion tart with mustard and fennel

Two years ago: Herb-Poached Shrimp, Cocktail Sauce, Summer Panzanella and an Artichoke and Yukon Gold Gratin. Yes, please!

Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I use a bit more)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I like it coarsely grated for this)

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

Put 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl, then make a well in center of flour and add yeast mixture to well. Stir together egg, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with a fork. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or your fingertips, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead, working in additional flour (up to 1/4 cup) as necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While dough rises, heat remaining 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté fennel seeds until a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Stir in onions, remaining teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

[Do ahead: I made the dough several hours in advance and let it rise in the fridge, and the onions too, which I let sit covered at room temperture until I was ready to assemble and bake the tart.]

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Knead dough gently on a floured surface with floured hands to deflate. Pat out dough on a large heavy baking sheet (preferably blue steel) into a 15- by 12-inch rectangle, turning up or crimping edge, then brush mustard evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spread onions evenly over mustard, then sprinkle evenly with cheese.

Bake tart until crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares or diamonds and serve warm or at room temperature.

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