Friday, October 3, 2014

Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart

Sure, you could slow cook whole shallots until they are caramelized and sweet, add wine and anchovies for extra flavor and just eat them with a spoon, but why not bake them, topped with puff pastry tarte tartin style and make a meal of them? 

Let the shallots shine
Technically speaking, the anchovies make this non-vegetarian so if you want to leave them out and add in a little salt, feel free. My goal was not to have a meat-free meal but to showcase the wonderful French shallots I can afford here from time to time. What I mean is, they are almost always available but sometimes the cost is so crazy that I can’t possibly justify it. But summer is shallot-harvesting season in France so the prices have dropped to a more reasonable level, even in Dubai. In fact, a 250g (almost 9 oz) bag of these beauties were on sale at my local supermarket for just a little more than one dollar last week. How could I not take advantage?

If you’ve never had the opportunity to cook with proper French shallots, do seek them out. Their flavor is robust, some might even say strong, but they are less sharp than their fellow alliums, like onions and garlic. They are beautifully sweet when caramelized and divine chopped finely in a vinaigrette dressing. I fell in love with them when we lived in Paris, along with skinny little green beans, stinky cheese, bargain-basement Côtes du Rhône and, especially, a certain little blue-eyed blond we named Cecilie. Oh, yes, Paris was good to us.

No shallots on hand?
Can you make this tart with normal onions? Of course, you can. I substitute them all the time when a recipe calls for shallots, but just cut the onions up into wedges and keep an eye on them as they caramelize. You don’t want them to burn.

I served this beautiful savory tart with a big casserole dish of baked zucchini topped with spicy tomatoes and crumbled feta. I’ll share that recipe on Sunday when our Sunday Supper group brings you fresh whole food recipes for the theme we are calling “unprocessed.” If you are trying to eliminate multisyllabic ingredients that sound like chemicals from your daily diet, you’ll want to check back this weekend.

Meanwhile, if you just caramelize the shallots and eat them with a spoon, you’ll get no judgment from me. Carry on.

1 lb 10 oz or 750g shallots
Olive oil
1/2 cup or 120ml wine – red or white as long as it’s dry
5 or 6 anchovy fillets
Black pepper
8 oz or 230g ready made butter puff pastry

Optional to serve: crème fraîche or sour cream

Peel each shallot from the top.

Now, gently whittle off the roots with a sharp knife to keep the shallot whole.

In an ovenproof pan, drizzle a little olive oil and a little water and add the peeled, whole shallots. You want them to fit fairly snuggly because they will shrink a bit as they soften.

Slow cook them over a low flame with tight-fitting lid on for about an hour. Check on them every once in a while and add a few drops more water, if necessary. Shake the pan or push the shallots gently around to make sure they aren’t sticking but don’t break them apart. We want them to soften and caramelize, never burn.

After an hour or more of simmering, add your five or six anchovies, broken up into pieces and then the wine.

Add a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Turn the fire up just a little bit and cook the shallots with lid off until the pan is almost dry.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 400°F or 200°C and take the pan off the stove.  Allow the shallots to cool for about 15 minutes while your oven preheats.

Unroll your puff pastry and cover pan with it.

Tuck the edges under all the way around the shallots.

Cut a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out.

Bake in your preheated oven until pastry is puffed and golden, about 15-20 minutes.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then invert on serving dish.

Serve each slice with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream, if desired. Although the cream is rich, somehow it complements the silky sweet shallots. I’m not even going to tell you because I’m sure you already know, but pour yourself a glass of wine as well.


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