I love a savory tart. I just find them so versatile. They make a perfect lunch with a salad, or a homey dinner with a bowl of soup, or an elegant starter at a dinner party. They are a great thing to take to someone who needs a meal and are great eaten warm out of the oven or at room temperature, so leftovers are useful as well. Of course, the French-style Quiche Lorraine is the classic, but I’ve also tried the Belgian version, Flamiche, or a hearty Chicken, Cheddar and Pecan version. There is no end to the combinations. Toss up a pretty green salad to serve with it, or a nice bowl of soup.
For this version, I add a lovely, nutty walnut pastry and add some walnuts to the filling for crunch. Sweetly caramelized onions and sharp blue cheese make for a rich, complex flavor. Patience with the onions is well rewarded as they become jammy sweet with the hit of wine and brandy. Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs and adds such as a mysterious note to the filling, but if you can’t find it use thyme. Toast the walnuts to bring out the deep nuttiness, then they add a great texture to the finished product.
- For the Walnut Pastry
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup all-pupose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teasponn ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup butter, cold
- 4 – 5 Tablespoons ice water
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 4 medium sized red onions
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup white vermouth or white wine
- 2 Tablespoons brandy
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- 5 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- Put the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to finely grind, then add the flour, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to combine. Make sure to scrape any of the walnuts that cling to the edges of the bowl and mix them with the flour. Cut the butter into very small cubes and drop into the flour, then pulse to a fine, mealy texture. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water until the pastry just comes together in a ball. Dump the pastry ball onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, though up to a day ahead is fine.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter, then unwrap the pastry onto the paper. Roll the pastry into a circle big enough to fill the a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Carefully transfer the pastry to the pan and gently press it in to fit.
- Prick the base of the pastry case with a fork, then line it with parchment paper. Fill the case with ceramic pie weights or dry beans, then bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium high heat just until they smell lovely and nutty and are lightly browned. Immediately transfer to a plate to cool.
- Peel the onions and slice them very thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife. This is a lot of onions, but they shrink considerably with cooking, so don’t be alarmed. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or pot, then add the onions and stir to coat with the butter. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they just begin to brown. Pour in the wine and brandy and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot and leave the onions to caramelize and soften, about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Watch that they don’t burn or catch, but low and slow cooking makes them sweet and delicious. When the onions are soft reduced, remove the lid and cook a further 10 – 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are a nice, even golden brown. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 Tablespoon chopped marjoram and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Remove the paper and pie weights from the pastry shell, then spread the onions in an even layer over the base. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the onions in an even layer, then the toasted walnuts over the cheese. Place the pan on a baking sheet.
- Whisk the eggs and cream together in a small bowl, then whisk in the remaining 1 Tablespoons marjoram. Evenly pour the custard over the filling in the tart shell. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, until the center is set and lightly golden.
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