A French specialty called pissaladière is the inspiration for this week's Savory Onion and Mushroom Tart. Provençal in origin, a traditional pissaladière features a combination of caramelized onions, olives and anchovies, which are added whole, as a topping, or in the form of the anchovy paste (pissalat) from which the dish receives its name.
While anchovies feature prominently in an authentic pissaladière, our version uses just one anchovy, which we finely chop and toss with cherry tomatoes before roasting, a simple step that adds great flavor without overpowering the tart.
The crust can be made with dough similar to a sturdy pizza, or, as preferred by Julia Child (and us), a rich and buttery puff pastry, which you can find in the freezer section of most grocery stores. In our version, the base of flavor comes from a wonderful blend of thinly sliced onions, mushrooms, thyme and garlic, slowly cooked in butter and olive oil until caramelized.
We use two large, yellow onions which yield about 4 to 5 cups when sliced, and a food processor or mandolin will greatly expedite the slicing process. The volume of onions will seem great at first, especially compared to the amount of mushrooms, but the onions will shrink considerably as they caramelize.
Caramelizing the onions mitigates their spicy bite and allows their natural sweetness to come forth. As they caramelize, the onions will soften and reduce until almost jammy in texture. The mushrooms will shrink just a bit and mostly hold their shape, while soaking in the flavors of the onion, thyme and garlic. This caramelized mixture is spread onto the puff pastry and thickens as it bakes, becoming even more intense in flavor.
Puff pastry is versatile and easy to shape into whatever pan or tin you choose. For this occasion, I used a tart pan for elegance, but I'll often just roll the dough into a rectangle and bake it on a sheet pan. Once the dough is shaped, spread the onion mixture evenly around, leaving a one-inch border if baking on a sheet, and bake for 10 minutes before adding the tomatoes and olives.
I prefer to broil the tomatoes on their own for about four to five minutes, just until they start to split, and let them cool before adding to the tart with the olives. This helps the tomatoes keep their shape and prevents their juices from weeping onto the tart.
You can prepare the caramelized onion mixture and roasted tomatoes up to two days in advance and assemble the tart just before baking. This tart may be served warm or at room temperature, making it perfect for light dinners, picnics, sack lunches and appetizer buffets.
The combined flavors of the caramelized onions and mushrooms give this tart an almost meaty quality, making it a perfect dish for Lenten Fridays, especially when paired with the peppery spice of a simple arugula salad.
Savory, elegant and delicious, this onion and mushroom tart is robust with flavor and sure to be a hit at your table.
Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tart
Serves: 4 to 6
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
15 cherry tomatoes
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups baby button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (check directions on package for thawing guidelines)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
12 to 15 good-quality black olives (Kalamata, oil-cured, Niçoise), halved lengthwise
Set oven to broiler function (approx. 500-500 degrees F).
In a medium bowl, combine the chopped anchovy with olive oil, add the cherry tomatoes and toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again until evenly distributed. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil for 4 to 5 minutes until the skins just begin to split. Watch carefully to prevent browning. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, slice tomatoes in half and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic and thyme, stirring to combine. The onions will appear to overflow the pan but will quickly reduce below the rim.
Stir in the kosher salt and black pepper, partially cover pan and cook, over medium-low heat until the onions are softened and golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pan from heat and discard the thyme sprigs.
Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll out to desired size. If using a tart pan, gently press the dough into place, pressing along the bottom and edges. If using a baking sheet, place the dough on the sheet leaving at least an inch between the edges. Use a fork to prick the pastry all over and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
Spread the onion mixture evenly over the center of the pastry, leaving a one-inch border free of topping. Brush the border with the egg wash. Place sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with the halved tomatoes and olives.
Return tart to oven and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges and bottom are golden brown. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers may be refrigerated for at least 2 days.
Recipe Time Capsule
This week in...
- 2017: Biscotti Two Ways: Savory Cheddar and Classic Almond
- 2016: Leap Day Frog Legs
- 2015: Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca
- 2014: Revithosoupa: Greek Chickpea Soup
- 2013: Sicilian Arancini Balls
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.