What’s Cookin’ – French Onion Tart (Tart A L’Oignon)

My sister-in-law recently gave me a three piece set of vintage Matfer quiche tins.  I talked about it here.  A round recipe card was included in the box written in French on one side and English on the other.

Here is a copy of the English side of the recipe card.

The following are the recipes, exactly as written, for the pastry dough and the French Onion Tart or Tart A L’Oignon.  Things always sound fancier in French, don’t they?

I decided to make the recipes for the pastry crust and the French Onion Tart, but before I could do so I had to edit them to reflect modern methods, appliances, and amounts and names of ingredients.

So, plain flour became all-purpose flour and and icing sugar became powdered sugar and 5 ounces of butter became 10 tablespoons of butter, etc.  I also looked up the meaning of Mark 7 and Mark 2 when describing oven temperature.  Apparently, in the UK and some other European countries, gas ovens in the early to mid 1900s used a temperature scale of Mark ¼ through Mark 9.  There are conversion charts for temperatures using the Mark, Celsius, and Fahrenheith scales.  Interesting.

I have included the re-designed recipes for the Basic Pastry Dough and French Onion Tart at the end of this post.  I tried to keep them as true to the originals as possible.  Even if you never make this recipe or if you buy a pre-made pastry shell and simply prepare the onion filling, I hope that you enjoy visiting these recipes, that are easily over 50 years old, with me.

Basic Pastry Shell ingredients.

Combine the dry ingredients – the flour, the sugar, and the salt.

Diced, cold, unsalted butter.

Combine egg yolk and ice cold water.

Pulse the dry ingredients and the butter in the food processor until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Add just enough of the egg / water mixture to form a dough ball. 

Dump dough ball onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour until completely chilled.

Note:  While dough is chilling, you can start preparing the filling.  It will take about an hour to sauté the onions and allow it to cool.

Prepare your pie tin or quiche dish by rubbing the bottoms and sides, liberally, with butter.

Roll out your dough and place into your prepared pan.

Pastry shell ready to bake.

Note:  At this point there are various methods suggested to bake unfilled shells to prevent shrinkage and puffing.  I preheat my oven, cover the unbaked shell with a piece of buttered waxed paper that is then filled with kidney beans.  I have been using the same bag of kidney beans for this purpose for years.  After each baking, I allow the beans to cool and pour them back into the bag until the next time that I need them.  I bake the shells for part of the recommended length of time, remove the beans, and finish baking until the desired level of doneness is achieved.  What is interesting is that you can add fillings to completely baked pie shells, bake until done, and they will not burn.  You will, however, end up with a perfectly baked and flaky pie shell.  You may have to cover the edges of the pie shell with foil to prevent this part from becoming overdone.

Here is my baked pastry shell ready to fill.  Isn’t it lovely?

French Onion Tart ingredients.

Sauté the finely diced onions in the butter.  You do not want to brown or carmelize the onions.  You want to cook them very slowly until they are very soft and translucent.

Add the flour to the cooked onion mixture and sauté for another minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 325° F.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the eggs, the cream, the milk, and the seasonings.  Whisk well to combine.

Note:  I added the leftover egg white from making the pastry shell so it did not go to waste.

Combine the wet ingredients with the onion mixture.

Add the filling to your prebaked pastry shell.  Bake in a preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  Wrap the edges of the pastry shell in foil, if necessary, to prevent overbaking.

The baked French Onion Tart or Tart A L’Oignon.

This is basically an onion quiche, but what is interesting is that it does not taste at all onion-y.  It is creamy and buttery and delicious.  And it was lovely alongside some freshly slice Roma tomatoes from my garden.

There are versions of this little recipe in both my The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbooks.  Even if you do not make this pastry shell from scratch, I think you will enjoy this little onion pie.


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