Sunday, November 18, 2012

No-Stress Elegance - Caramelized Onion & Olive Croustade

And just like that .... 'Tis the season! 
Photo: NK
November's barely over and already, calendars are filling up with holiday parties and events. 

Our hearts are soon to be filled thanks to all the family fun, and we're priming our bellies for the most diet unfriendly time of the year. Though festive, the stretch between Turkey Day and New Years can be both exhausting and nerve-frazzling. So when it comes time to balance our daily responsibilities with a whole lot of extra merriment, I like to have something predictable to rely on. Today, it's a go-to hors d'oeuvre. 

ln a season where you'll more than likely have to bring a dish or an appetizer to parties, I thought I would share a foolproof, easy, yet impressive pre-dinner bite. Eric Ripert's Caramelized Onion and Olive Croustade fits that bill. I'll be bringing this savory pastry to my mom-in-law's Thanksgiving Celebration. Cut into slices, the Croustade makes for the perfect universally likable portable finger food. 

Why it's great:
The recipe is simple - many of the ingredients will be in your pantry already, so to make this, you'll only need to buy about 5 or 6 other items, none of which are hard to find or exotic. 

Using Frozen Puff Pastry makes this even easier, and works for bakingphobes like me. 

Who doesn't love a sweet, salty and savory pastry hors d'oeuvre? 

What to know: 
Caramelizing Onions is very simple to do but not quick. Set aside about an hour and twenty minutes total for this recipe, 45 minutes of which will be dedicated to slicing and caramelizing the onions. Keep in mind, there is really only about 20 minutes of active time overall, so although the dish is not super quick, it really is quite easy.

Make sure to leave time to bring your Puff Pastry Sheets to room temperature before beginning this recipe. This should take about a half hour. To do this, you'll need to remove it from the package and separate the two sheets.

Caramelizing the Onions can be done a day in advance providing you store them in the fridge in an airtight container. 

The complete Croustade should be prepared the morning of and stored outside of the fridge. 

For serving, the Croustade is really best served fresh out of the oven, but also tastes just fine at room temperature. If you travel with it and your hostess has room in the oven, ask her to warm it up briefly. It can sit overnight if necessary as well. Store on a countertop and cover in foil.

You can experiment with the size and shape of this tart. Ripert's recipe yields two 6 inch round Tarts, but you can easily make one or even two larger round Tarts providing you double the amount of Caramelized Onions you prepare, as well as the amount of Olives you buy. If you do this, keep in mind that baking time may change, so just check your Croustade at about 14 minutes into cooking and keep an eye on it until it is flaky, golden, and cooked through. 

Here we go:

Caramelized Onion and Olive Croustade
Recipe by Eric Ripert 
Yield: Makes 2 Small Croustades and Serves 5 to 6 
Total Time: 1.5 hours or less, Active Time: 2O minutes 

1/4 Cup Olive Oil 
1 Clove Garlic, very thinly sliced
2 Very Large White or Yellow Onions, very thinly sliced
2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Fine Quality Sea Salt 
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 Sheets Frozen Puff Pastry Dough, defrosted fully and cut into 6 inch rounds*
1/2 Cup Black Olives, Pitted - preferably Nicoise or Kalamata Olives, sliced in half.
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese, a few pinches

*Cook's Tip - If you don't have an appropriately sized cookie cutter, use an inverted bowl or other round object to mark the dough, then trace the rounds with a sharp knife to create circles. 

Caramelized Onions, Photo: NK
Preheat oven to 450.

Heat Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced-up Onion, Thyme Sprigs, and Garlic.

Cook the Onion, stirring once in a while, until soft - about 6 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook the Onions for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well caramelized.
Season to taste with a bit of Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. Remove onions to a plate lined with paper towel and lightly blot away some of the oil. 

Place Puff Pastry rounds on a non-stick baking sheet or baking sheet lined with Parchment. 
Assembling the Croustade, Photo: NK

Spread the Onion Mixture onto each Dough Round. 

Be sure to leave about a half inch or less 
of space around the edges.

Next, top the Onion Mixture with Black Olives and Parmesan.  

Bake the Croustade in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure to check it at around the 15 minute mark.

When the Croustades are done they will be fully crisped, flaky, golden brown, and puffed. Let cool if storing or serve warm if presenting to guests right away. When ready to serve, cut Croustades into thin slices. 

Store outside of the fridge if not serving immediately.

Best served right away but the croustade is also good at room temperature or, more preferably, re-heated briefly. 
Caramelized Onion and Olive Croustade, Photo: NK 
Wishing you all a joyous Thanksgiving! 
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