April 9th, 2009

Caramelized Red Onions, Pears and Blue Cheese Tartelettes

A surprise for your birthday party

We have all been in a situation when we have invited many guests for a birthday party. We would like to surprise them with tasty and original dishes without having to spend many hours in the kitchen. My solution is to make a big pan of some tasty soup to start with. My birthday is in October, so soup as a starter fits great with somewhat cooler weather. Pumpkin soup is a really good option. With its many variations there is always one just perfect for You. Most of the variations are light, smooth and very aromatic. Their inviting smell spreads throughout the house and even leaks through to the staircase. Believe me, no one will refuse to try it when they come in. My all times favourite is Pumpkin Soup with Green Apple and Rosemary.

The soup is then accompanied by a couple of quiches with different fillings to satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians (the winners are Onion, Carrot and Banana Quiche and Sauerkraut Tartelettes with Dates). And of course you do not want to miss out on some fresh veggies, so a couple of salads should complet the menu. A very easy and “autumny” option is Carrot Salad with Garlic and Raisins. Another “quick chopper” is Mango and Red Paprika Salad. And while you could just take some of these ideas (or all of them) and implement them during your next birthday party, here is a recipe that takes you a step further. And please do not get discouraged by the preparation times! The little tartelettes can be prepared long in advance and kept in a airtight container until ready to use. The caramelization of onions does take some time but you can also prepare them in advance and keep in the fridge. There are not so many recipes that allow their preparation 2-3 days in advance! And on the day itself it just means you will have to assemble the tartelletes, which takes about 5 minutes, bake them in the oven for 5 minutes and you are ready to delight your guests! So my suggestion is: keep the Sauerkraut Tartelettes and replace the other quiche with this recipe (make a double or a triple portion, depending on the number of guests, make sure you use a large frying pan for caramelizing the onions then). And hey, they are both vegetarian now so imagine the joy of your vegetarian friends! Actually I have just realized that the whole dinner is vegetarian, but its rainbow of flavours will make all-eaters forget they did not get any animals to feast on.

Ingredients:

For the filling:

2 big red onions
5 Tbsp red wine
5 Tbsp red balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 ripe pear
about 100g blue cheese (Castello blue)
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

For the dough:

75 g butter, at room temperature
175 g plain flour

Materials: 8 tartellete forms

Prep. time pastry: 10 minutes, 20 minutes cooling down time; baking time: 15-20 minutes
Prep. time filling: 5 minutes; cooking time: 40 minutes
Final assembling time: 10 minutes

Serves 8.

To make pastry, cut the butter into pieces and mix it with flour using your fingers on a table or in a flat plate. Add just enough water to make smooth dough. (You will really need just a little bit of water so be careful while pouring in the first splash). Cover the dough in plastic and leave it rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on the table until it is about 2cm thick. Using a cup or a mug that is a bit larger in diameter than your tartellete forms cut 8 circles out of the dough. If you do not manage to get 8 circles the first time, roll the remaining dough one more time. Carefully move the circles in the tartellete forms greased with butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through but not coloured. Take tartelletes out of the oven, let them rest a bit and carefully turn them over on a flat surface to separate the tartelletes from the forms.

To make the filling, cut the onions in half circles. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and fry the onions over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add half of the sugar, 3 Tbsp of each wine and vinegar. Continue stirring frequently. After about 15 minutes add remaining sugar, wine and vinegar plus salt and pepper. Mix well and taste the onions. You should taste distinctively sweet and sour flavours. You might need a bit more sugar or vinegar. Continue stirring for another 20 minutes. The onions are ready when they become soft and chewy. Be careful not to overcook them, dry and crispy is not what we are aiming for! When ready, set aside to cool down.

To assemble the tartelletes (just before service), pre-heat the oven or grill to 180°C. Fill the tartelletes for the half with the caramelized onions. Put a couple of thin pear slices on top (cut in any shape you like), cover with a slice of the blue cheese and sprinkle with some chopped walnuts. I prefer not to cover the onion surface completely with pear and cheese so that you can see all the beautiful colors of the filling. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Cool down just slightly and serve.

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