I think of puff pastry as a festive food. But puff pastry with caramelized onions and goat cheese, flipped upside à la tarte tatin? Hello, Christmas! I’m excited the holidays are here again so I can revel in this luxurious savory tart, a recipe from Jill Colonna, author of the cookbook, Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons like the French.
Jill is an expert at creating simple luxury — her genius cookbook offers practical step-by-step instructions for producing the notoriously finicky macaron in the home kitchen, recipes perfected over her twenty years as a macaron aficionado. Born in Scotland, Jill now lives in the Paris suburb of St-Germain-en-Laye (“next to the river Seine; the land of the Impressionists,” she calls it), where she juggles life with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a job leading chocolate and macaron tours for Context Travel. (Yes, clever Jill has found a way to actually get paid to eat sweets.) Today I’m delighted to share her quick weeknight cooking tips and a recipe for onion and chèvre tarte tatin!
On what she cooks when she doesn’t feel like cooking:
–A ‘pizza tarte’ using ready-made puff pastry circles and top with tomato paste, ham, grated cheese and whatever kind of leftovers I can throw on top.
–We’re huge pasta fans, so a tub of crème fraîche, lemon, yolks and roasted chicken leftovers (or conveniently from Picard, our French frozen store) or a mushroomy sauce, for example, gets tossed about and all served with a roquette salad.
And when she really, REALLY doesn’t feel like cooking:
On days when I feel like mumbling, ‘Mum is on strike!’, I serve fresh store-bought ravioli, toss it in butter, sprinkle with fresh herbs from the garden, liberally snow on the parmesan and serve hubby and I a glass of chilled Chardonnay and before I know it, I’m discussing tomorrow’s dinner again.
On buying vegetables that last:
I normally pack the fridge once a week with fresh fruit and veg. If I buy them from my favourite help-yourself farmers’ market nearby in Mesnil-le-Roi, they last easily a week — which is no comparison to a quick shop at the supermarket: their offerings always wilt miserably after a couple of days so I rely on frozen spinach for quiches or frozen peas for a quick pea and basil soup.
How she adds a quick crunch:
In our pantry you’ll find walnuts, hazelnuts and pinenuts — I love to toast them in advance and store them in jam jars, so that I can sprinkle them on salads and gratins at the last minute for some extra flavor.
Why you want to live at Jill’s house:
It goes without saying I always have ground almonds, icing/confectioner’s and caster sugar and a handy stock of homemade macarons in the freezer…
Onion and chèvre tarte tatin
by Jill Colonna
“I’ve chosen my favorite quick dish,” says Jill. “It takes ten minutes to prepare, twenty minutes to leave on the stove, then I can set the timer on the oven for twenty minutes and dinner is ready when we get back. This is perfect served with a Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers and bon appétit.”
*Note from Ann: Jill’s tart tastes complex and luxurious, but is one of the simplest things I’ve ever made. I found four onions overcrowded the pan (maybe American onions are bigger than French onions?), so use your best judgement. I used two disks of fresh goat cheese and broke them across the top of the onions. Jill cooks her tart at 360°F/ 180°C, but I found the temperature far too cool — instead, I recommend using the baking instructions on your box of puff pastry. Finally, I wasn’t sure when to add the walnuts, so I toasted them and scattered a handful across the top of the flipped tart.
Serves 4 as a light dinner
Special equipment: a frying pan that can transfer to the oven
2 large onions
2 red onions
large knob of butter (30g)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3 crottins de chavignol (fresh goat’s cheese)
1 ready-rolled puff pastry round (all butter is best)
Handful of walnuts
Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low flame, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil in a sauté pan that can be transferred to the oven. Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for 20 minutes, turning only once or twice to coat the onions in the butter and oil.
Preheat the oven to temperature suggested on box of puff pastry.
Stir the balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt and pepper into the onions. Slice the crottins of goat cheese in half horizontally and distribute them on top of the onions. Top with the large disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with the fork then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden (consult back of puff pastry box for suggested cooking time).
Remove from the oven. Place a plate larger than the pan over the top. Turn the tatin upside down quickly on to the plate. Serve with a salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts (which you have in stock in your pantry!). Jill normally also adds bits of charcuterie or fried bacon bits to the salad, so that it resembles a salade de chèvre chaud.
(All non-tart photos from Jill Colonna.)