A very authentic taste of France has arrived in Charleston. Chez Nous is authentic, charming and delicious. And, she joins a gaggle of tasty new French enterprises in town.
Even though Vidalia onions are an edible hallmark of spring down here in the South, I start thinking about this Vidalia Onion Tart more as the cooler, shorter days of fall start approaching. Something about it just seems earthy and right set on a cool, fall table, with the sound of crunchy leaves and waning light all around. I think we’re all ready for fall once Labor Day comes rolling around as it’s about to once again.
Vidalia onions are basically a sweet onion that hail from Vidalia, Georgia. Sweet onions
Photo by Helene Dujardin
with a less noble label are fortunately available throughout the year. They really make this tart sing, as the sweetness plays the most beautiful taste music against the salty back-notes of the bacon and lemmony earthiness of fresh thyme.
I love this Alsacienne-themed tart so much, I actually repeated it in Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet from its original home on the pages of Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. The only recipe I’ve ever repeated, it’s just that good and can be served warm, room temperature, or hot from the oven. It’s especially delicious, and even a little bit romantic, eaten in front of a blazing fire with a good friend and a cool glass of Riesling.
Here it is as adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet (Gibbs Smith). By the way, the publisher told me last week that the book has arrived at the warehouse and will be shipping to bookstores in a matter of days! There is no time like the present for tarts. Happy cooking!
Vidalia Onion Tart with Bacon, Honey and Fresh Thyme
(Serves 10 to 12)
Equipment Needed: One 12 X 1-inch round tart pan with removable bottom
Egg wash (yolk, pinch salt, splash water blended together)
One Recipe Master Savory Pastry:
2 1/2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) AA grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice-cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together
For the filling:
4 slices bacon
5 large Vidalia onions (or substitute another sweet onion), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons whole cream
At least 30 minutes before rolling and baking (or up to one day in advance), prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse rapidly, 40 – 50 times, or until the butter is blended into the flour and is coarse and the butter is the size of small peas. Gradually, add the water in a small trickle, with the processor running. Continue adding just as the pastry starts coming together in the shape of a loose, crumbly ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a disc, about 1″ high, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1″- thick. Line the tart pan with the pastry. Tuck the pastry neatly into the edges of the pan, guiding about 1/4″ of the pastry up and into the insides of the pan. Using your rolling pin, roll over the entire circumference of the pan to cut off any excess pastry (this can be saved for later use). Press the excess pastry between your forefinger and thumb, to form a slightly elevated border. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Line the pan with parchment paper and weights (I use dried beans) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and brush the bottoms and sides with the egg wash. Bake another 10 – 15 minutes, or until just golden. Remove from the oven and set aside until ready to fill.
To prepare the filling, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon in a single layer and cook, turning as needed, until it is crispy and the fat has been rendered. Transfer bacon to drain and cool on paper towels; chop coarsely once cool enough to handle. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon fat in the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onions, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook over medium heat until onions have softened, stirring about every 5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown! After about 20 minutes, add wine and increase heat to medium-high. Cook the wine down to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the honey and reserved chopped bacon. Stir and cook 5 minutes more. Remove onion mixture from the heat and spoon into a shallow pan; refrigerate to cool. When cool, drain off any excess pan juices and stir in the egg and cream. Adjust seasonings as needed.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Fill the pastry crust with the onion mixture and bake about 35 minutes, until golden brown and the filling is set. Serve warm or at room temperature.