Last time I posted here I wrote about my process for selecting the recipes we send to our Wine Club. It seems like I just finished the batch needed for March’s shipment, and now here I am working on May’s. It’s a little early, but I’m headed to the midwest for a week to visit my family and I want to get these all worked out before I go.
So last night was typical, I made the Bacon, Onion and Gruyere Tart pictured above, an Apricot Lime Chicken dish with Apricot Yogurt Sauce, Shrimp Cakes with Herbed Aioli and Grilled Pepper Steaks with Green Peppercorn Sauce. That was dinner – we ate each one kind of like tapas, small plates passed around between us – and my 17 year-old son was thrilled because there was nary a vegetable in sight. Let’s just call it a high protein meal.
The green peppercorn sauce was a bust, it didn’t taste that great and it didn’t work with the Pinot I had intended it for. I love the classic green peppercorn sauce with a steak but I’ll go back to my old recipe next time. The Apricot Lime Chicken was a hit, and the leftovers were delicious for lunch today. And the Shrimp Cakes were perfect with the Rosé I wanted to match.
The Onion Tart was simply wonderful, (Rob and our son devoured the whole thing in less than 10 minutes. Oh! Onions are a vegetable, right? I am redeemed) but….it did not go with the Riesling I was working with. Darn.
You might know that an onion tart with some kind of cured pork, a little cheese, and sometimes anchovy and/or briny black olives is a pretty ubiquitous snack in much of France. In the Alsace region, it is almost always paired with a lovely Riesling. The thing is that Rieslings are all over the map in terms of their sweet/acid ratio. Last night I was looking for the perfect match for our 2013 Ana Vineyard Riesling. This is a stunning wine, quite bracing. The acid in it is high, thus making the wine very lean and fresh. It just did not work with the tart. What a shame. I’m sure it was the sweetness of the caramelized onions in the tart that foiled me. There is not a hint of anything sweet in the wine.
The first rule of wine and food pairing: the food should never be sweeter than the wine you’re serving it with.
So, I was a little disappointed, I love the tart and I was excited about sharing the recipe with our Club members. Then I had a lightbulb moment: what about our Love, Oregon Riesling?
This wine has a completely different profile from the other, with touches of vanilla and pear. The hint of sweetness in the wine gives it a little more weight and softer edges, though there is still plenty of brightness. It’s funny how the same grape made by the same winemaker can offer such completely different wines. It all has to do with the origin of the fruit. The vineyard source can mean everything! And one wine is not better than the other, mind you. They’re just very different incarnations of the same grape varietal.
It’s kind of like our kids. Having two boys who are just eighteen months apart naturally invites comparisons from people (particularly their teachers). I can’t tell you how often people remark how different they are from one other. Well sure, but inside they’re both Stuarts – they just show it a little differently.
The good news is that I now get to share this recipe with you! I hope you’ll make it some time, maybe to take on a picnic or to serve as an hor d’oeurve, accompanied by a lovely glass of Riesling, or perhaps Rosé.
I mentioned above that the onion tart is almost ubiquitous in France. I have seen dozens of recipes and adaptions out there in the world of cookbooks. While I’m not really sure who might claim to have invented this dish, this one is adapted slightly Williams-Sonoma’s book Wine & Food.
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, about 3 oz. total weight, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 pound yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1/2 cup coarsely shredded Gruyere cheese
- 4-5 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
- in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until renders its fat and is lightly browned but not too crisp, 4 or 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Now add the onions and toss to coat with the bacon fat. Add the wine, thyme salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the onions are very soft and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until any liquid has evaporated, 3-4 minutes. The onions should be quite dry. Transfer the onions to a bowl and let stand until slightly cooled, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper unto an 11 inch square and 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the parchment and pastry to a baking sheet. Turn up the pastry edges about a half inch to make a small raised edge. Prick the pastry all over with the tines of a fork. Bake the pastry until it just starts to color, but not brown, and is dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Add the Gruyere cheese and the reserved bacon to the cooled onions and mix well. Sprinkle the pastry with the Parmesan cheese, and then spread the onion mixture evenly over the pastry, getting as close to the edge as you like. Bake the tart until the edges of the pastry are lightly browned a few small brown specks have appeared on the onions, about 20 minutes. Let the tart cool slightly.
- Scatter additional thyme leaves over the top, if you like.
- Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut into squares that suit your needs. Serve warm or at room temperature.