The holidays are kind of tough. Well, the lead up is tough, it’s like a frickin’ marathon. But the actual holidays are pretty nice. Well, Christmas Eve can be nuts and Christmas Day is…I like Boxing Day. The point is it’s a busy time, that’s why I gravitate towards dishes that require minimum effort but deliver maximum reward. Take today’s French Onion Tarts for instance. They’re simple to put together and they’re bonafide flavor heavyweights.
Sure, you can make these French Onion Tarts difficult by electing to make your own puff pastry. I get having the drive to do that sort of thing, I’m a high-functioning maniac as well. But if you don’t relish the thought of folding butter into dough, don’t sweat it. If you buy frozen puff pastry, you limit your action to chopping and preheating the oven. That’s what I love most about these tarts: they could be the ideal lazy Boxing Day kitchen project or fuss-free Christmas Eve finger food, it all depends on the puff pastry you choose.
By “fuss free”, I don’t necessarily mean quick because I’m definitely an advocate of low and slow. By “fuss-free” I mean you put a thing in a pot and you check on said thing occasionally for an hour or two. You’re not really doing anything except peeking into a pot and we all do that anyways, so really not a hardship. These tarts are not quick even with frozen puff pastry in your corner. They’re topped with onions and shallots braised in a beef broth/red wine cocktail for an hour. Yeah, so not quick, but not hard either.
Personally, I would elect to make these French Onion Tarts on Boxing Day and do them whole hog. Even though I make food for a living, I like to spend my down time in the kitchen. Generally, I’m cooking/baking with perfection in mind, so it’s nice to leave that behind and reconnect with my passion. Cooking with a glass of white wine in my hand is my idea of a good time and if I don’t have to worry about photographing the food, so much the better.
If my ideal Boxing Day sounds at all appealing to you, feel free to follow this useful recipe for puff pastry. I could rewrite the recipe, but The Kitchn has such excellent step-by-step photos that they should get all the glory. I was too lazy to take my own photos. So yeah, I’m lame. Hit them up for more info.
I think you’ll be blown away by how simple puff pastry actually is. I mean, it takes a while and you’re sort of tethered to your fridge for half a day, but it’s definitely not rocket science. And, bonus, it’s good for your biceps. There’s A LOT of rolling, so you’ll likely burn a little (very little) of the butter you’re using. Plus, you get to smack sticks of butter together with a rolling pin – it’s very satisfying. You’ll pretty much be ripped by the end of the whole affair and, as we all know, pastry guns are the best guns!
So, that’s what’s up with these little beauties. Honestly, you have to make them, they taste exactly like french onion soup only, you know, crispier.
French Onion Tarts with Gruyère
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 red onions peeled & sliced thick
- 4-5 shallots peeled & sliced thick
- 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bundle fresh thyme
- 2 bay leafs
- 12 thick slices Gruyere cheese
- 1 lb puff pastry homemade or frozen
- Fresh thyme for sprinkling
- In a large cast iron skillet or braiser, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted and frothy. Add the onions and shallots and sprinkle liberally with salt. Saute until golden brown.
- Pour the beef broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce over the onion mixture. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the thyme and bay leaf and cover. Let the onions braise over low heat for 40-50 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove the onions from the heat and let cool completely.
- When the onions have reached room temperature, roll the puff pastry out until it's an 1/8 of an inch thick.
- Cut circles out of the pastry using a 3-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the circles to a baking sheet.
- Top each pastry circle with a generous amount of the onion mixture. Make sure to leave a clean 1/2-inch border around the onions. Place a piece or two of Gruyere on top of the onion mixture and transfer the tarts to the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
- While the tarts are chilling, preheat the oven to 400F.
- Bake the tarts for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
- Serve tarts warm or at room temperature.