I have a lovely and patient husband, who, although he is wise beyond his years, sometimes gets some funny ideas. One of these is that I only like “fancy” food. No matter how many times I try to explain to him that just because I don’t consider the dollar menu at McDonald’s to be an adequate option for date night does not mean my tastes are either snobby or highbrow, he does not believe me. In his mind, I’m only willing to eat a certain type of haute cuisine, and the shorthand to describe that cuisine is caramelized onions.
As a result, he teases me mercilessly about caramelized onions. Whenever I criticize a dish, be it Chinese food or burritos, he’ll say, “Oh, not enough caramelized onions for you?” If I ask for suggestions as to what ice cream flavor I should make, he will say (after I’ve shot down vanilla), “How about caramelized onion?” What my lovely and patient husband fails to realize is that caramelized onions aren’t some chichi ingredient you find in restaurants, but a building block of good, homey cooking, from onion soup to hamburgers to this onion pie, originally called supper onion pie, or if you want to be all fancy, tarte tatin aux oignons.
What I love about this is that it’s so satisfying to eat. The sweetness of the onions contrasts nicely with the sharp hit of mustard, and the cheesy crust meets my bread cravings. It’s a great dish for brunch or a homey supper, and the leftovers are terrific for a takealong lunch.
And best of all, it’s very easy to make. The onions are cut into fat eighths (no real chopping required) and cooked low and slow, and the scone dough comes together in a flash. No rolling is necessary – you can just pummel the dough into shape and spread it atop the pan. And if a few onions stick to the pie plate, you can just artfully rearrange them – no one will be any wiser.
I often make this for dinner, and when my darling husband eats it with enthusiasm, I take my turn to tease him mercilessly about caramelized onions and make him eat his words. Literally.
- 4 medium red onions
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ -1 tsp herbs de provence
- 6 oz. Cheddar cheese, extra sharp, grated
- 1⅔ c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ c. milk
- 3 T butter, melted
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel the onions, halve them, then cut each half into quarters. Heat the oil and butter in the pan, then add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, for about 30 minutes until they're soft and translucent and starting to brown. Taste the onions, and season with salt and pepper and the herbes the provence. Turn into a pyrex pie plate.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt with 4 oz. of the cheese in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the melted butter, milk and mustard, stir to combine, then beat in the egg. Make a well in the middle of the flour cheese mixture, dump in the liquid mixture, and stir, probably with your hands but a wooden spoon is fine, until the dough is cohesive and pretty sticky.
- Sprinkle the remaining 2 oz. cheese over the onions, pat and stretch the dough into a circle roughly the size of the pie plate and lay it atop the cheese and onions. Press and stretch the dough until it covers all the onions, and press the edges for a rough seal.
- Bake 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake another 10-15 minutes. The dough should be golden brown and crisp around the edges. Let cool for a minute or two, then turn out onto a plate and cut into wedges.