Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostata

December 10, 2009


Appetizers, Basics, Crisps and Tarts, Dinner, Dough & Desserts, Fall, Holidays, Local Eating, Lunch, Recipes, Seasons, Side Dishes, Winter

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Last weekend, we feasted in the snow. We were drawn to warm foods—spicy shrimp and chorizo soup, a cheesy crostata and maple gingerbread. It was a real winter meal, save for the cherry tomatoes, which begged to be picked up with their winking green stems and shiny red orbs. They looked like tiny Christmas bulbs.

Before things get too quaint, I have to confess: sometimes my house makes me crazy. Lupe has a knack for finding our dirtiest clothes—mostly socks and some other unmentionables—and dragging them with her around the living room while we’re gone. Her habit is part retaliatory, part intoxication. I imagine the little dog shaking my socks in her jowls, inhaling the scent of my toes and cursing me for going away again.


She also rips up mail and leaves a confetti trail of bills from the mail slot, across the dining room and through the kitchen. The number of socks and papers she shreds is invariably proportional to the amount of time she is left at home without us. On the rare occasion that I can’t get back for a few extra hours, I hold my breath at the threshold and pray she hasn’t found the wedding photos.


Well, on Saturday we got distracted by Christmas shopping and pub-crawling and when we came back, the living room was riddled with hazmats. Nothing like a hole in my favorite woolen socks, tiny pieces of The Weekend Journal and shards of a recyclable plastic to make me adore coming home again. Especially when guests are set to arrive in less than 2 hours.


In my world, cleaning up is no small feat. Once it starts, it tends to go until the bitter end—I’m talking bags set aside for Goodwill; a closet arranged by hue and alphabetized bookshelves. I can’t let myself get to tidying too often. Instead I devise ruses to keep my mania at bay—in this case, it came in the form of a savory crostata.


Christopher and our dear friend Peter (who came all the way from New York to pick up Lupe’s pieces) helped clear the wreckage while I got to the kneading and freezing. I always forget how many times a cook has to cool pate brisee, but in the end it’s always worth the process. Plus the half an hour bouts when my dough ball rested in the fridge gave me perfect—and controlled—spurts at organizing before our guests arrived.

By the time the crostata was ready to bake, the house was positively shining. Candles were lit, the tree blinked its silvery lights, and champagne bubbles gave a serious lift to my spirits. But of all the fun we had, charades included, nothing made me happier than eating winter foods with my favorite folks—except of course, falling asleep with everyone on the couch with the hope of a snow cover in the morning… and leftover crostata topped with fried egg for breakfast.


Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostata

Serves 4 as a side dish

NOTE: This can be assembled ahead of time and baked off just before dinner.

Pate Brisee (see below)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 medium, white onions—or one large, sliced thin
1 c cherry tomatoes or ½ c sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
½ c goat cheese at room temperature
¼ c shaved Pecorino or Parmesan
Sprig of parsley for garnish
1 egg, beaten
S & P to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in heavy bottomed skillet then add onions.

Cook on low heat, stirring regularly for about 30 minutes or until onions are tender and amber in color. Salt and taste towards the end. (If you prefer your onions very sweet, you can add a ¼ tsp brown sugar to help them along.)

In the meantime, put olive oil and balsamic vinegar in another heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, adding tomatoes when warm.

Allow tomatoes to wilt and caramelize in the pan, stirring them occasionally for about fifteen minutes.  When they are fully deflated and the skins are peeling, turn off the heat.

(If you are using sundried tomatoes, simply warm them in a bit of vinegar.)

When tomatoes and onions are ready, remove pate brisee from refrigerator and roll out crostata until it is about 12” in diameter, lightly flouring the board and rolling pin. Don’t worry if it is not perfectly round—the edges will be folded to give it a ‘rustic’ look anyhow.

With the back of a spoon, spread the softened goat cheese along the dough, leaving about an inch and a half naked around the perimeter—this will be folded into a crust.

Spread caramelized onions evenly over the cheese, then place tomatoes on top. Sprinkle shaved Pecorino or Parmesan over the top and garnish with parsley.

Fold the edges of the dough over, creating a crust around the perimeter of the crostata.

Brush with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes.

Pate Brisee

(Double this recipe if you are making a pie)

1 ¼ c all purpose flour—use high quality stuff here. I like King Arthur.
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp sugar
6 tbsp (¾ stick) cold, unsalted butter cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ c ice water (you may not use it all)

In a food processor, stand mixer or with a vigorous fork, mix flour, salt and sugar.

Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles small pearls.

Add the water, pulsing intermittently until the dough comes together. (You may have to add more water as you go to get the dough to form a smooth ball.)

Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8” thick.

Transfer it to a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 more minutes.

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