French Onion & Bacon Tart
No quiche here…this is a tart! Plain and simple in all it’s glory.
This is serious onion-y goodness…topped off with a little bacon. Who can complain? NO ONE…that is the answer. If you say you don’t like onions, and I make you try this, and you still don’t like onions…I don’t think we can be friends. This tart has the essence of all things good about onions, and none of the bad, and I sweetened the deal with bacon…c’mon…just try a little bit!
French Onion & Bacon Tart
recipe from America’s Test Kitchen
1¼ cup flour
1 scant tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (8 tbsp.) cold butter cubed
2 tbsp. ice water
4-6 slices of bacon (your preference)
6 cups of sliced onions
1 sprig of thyme
½ cup of half & half
salt and pepper
Start with the crust. This is a press-in crust, so no rolling of delicate pastry dough necessary. You can mix everything and cut in the butter by hand…OR…you can use a Cuisinart or food processor. Definitely the easier way to go.
Preheat the oven to 375º. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl and pulse a few times to mix. Dump in all the butter and pulse about 15 times total. You want to cut the butter up smaller than you would for a flaky pie crust.
Now, add in 2 tbsp. of the ice cold water and turn the machine on for 5-6 seconds. You’ll know that you have the right amount of moisture in the dough by removing the lid, reaching in and grabbing a handful, squeeze it together and if it clumps…it’s perfect. If it is still crumbly and does not stick together, then put the lid back on, add another ½ to 1 teaspoon of ice water and turn on again for another 5-6 seconds.
Here’s the fun part…just grab some handfuls, drop them into a greased tart pan and start pressing it in. Try and make it an even layer across the bottom of the pan.
Continue pressing and work the dough up the sides of the pan. If it is too thick in one area, go ahead and pinch it off, then smush it back where it’s a little thin. This took a little more time than I anticipated, but some saran wrap can do wonders to help you smooth out the surface. Place a piece over the top of the dough, and rub the surface. The heat of your hand and the pressure will smooth out all the lumps. To avoid shrinkage…(no one likes shrinkage!)…place it on a plate and put it in the freezer to firm up and rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, you can prep your ingredients for the filling. Slice up 1-2 onions in ¼ to ½ inch strips. The onions will cook down quite a bit, so you’ll probably need more than you think. Steer clear of sweet onions and red onions for this recipe. The first is too sweet and the second will tint everything a bit of a mauve color…not the effect you’re looking for.
Throw your bacon strips into a cold pan. Letting the strips warm up with the pan (only to medium heat) will make crispy bacon with a lot of the fat rendered out. Putting bacon straight into a hot pan, will cook it faster, but you can end up with bacon that is over and under cooked all at the same time. Once bacon is cooked, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Depending on how much bacon fat is left in the pan, you may want to drain some of it…but what you leave in the pan will add bacon-y smoky flavor to your onions! (drool!)
Toss the onions into the pan, toss to coat, add in a sprig of thyme, a good sprinkling of salt and keep the heat medium or just below. You want to almost steep the onions, and avoid browning them which can make them too sweet. Once you’ve tossed them around a bit, throw a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and let them cook, sweat and steam for about 20 minutes.
Switch back to crust – pull it out of the freezer, place it on a cookie sheet, add a sheet of foil on top and press it in gently and then fill with your favorite pie weight (dry beans, rice, actual pie weights, marbles, ball bearings, something heavy that won’t mind some serious heat!). Place in the oven for 30 minutes while the onions are cooking.
Custard Time! The custard for this recipe is just a glue…binds it all together and is a tasty backdrop to the star of the show, Monsieur Onion! Beat the eggs and add in the half and half, a grind or two of black pepper and a touch of salt, mix well and set aside.
You may wonder about the lack of pictures for this part of the recipe…well, there are moments while cooking, that I completely forget to get pictures and only later realize that I missed about half the process. Use your imagination!
While you are waiting, try not to snack on all the bacon. If we’re being honest, I find this step the most difficult.
Check on the onions, they should be translucent, soft and very fragrant. Remove them from the heat and cool long enough that they won’t cook the eggs when added to the custard. When the crust comes out, remove the pie weights and foil. Remove the thyme sprigs from the onions and mix them into the custard. Pour it all into the tart crust, sprinkle with bacon pieces and put it back in the 375º oven for 25-30 minutes on the middle rack.
You’ll know the tart is done when a) you can no longer handle how good your kitchen smells, and b) when the custard is fully set…it shouldn’t jiggle!
I love the bacon on top because it stays crisp, unlike when it is added to the custard of quiche’s and it softens up. Carefully remove the rim of the tart pan, once it is cooled and then you can cut a slice and serve it up. This made a perfect dinner with a simple salad of mixed greens dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil and served with a crisp, dry white wine!