Potato and Onion Tart

Happy New Year!!  I hope that 2014 brings you peace, happiness, love, and the best of health..

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Looking back on 2013, I’m thankful to have my son here today. He gave us quite the scare last April, but with the wonderful doctors at Children’s hospital in Buffalo, he’s here and will be for many many years to come.

I’m also thankful for my friends who supported this crazy notion of starting a blog. For helping me come up with the name, and proofreading and proofreading, and tasting and tasting!!  And for all the tasting that is still to come!! I’m thankful for those of you who commented on my very first post,  and for the quick friendships that have grown…I’m thankful for those of you who follow my blog… and I look forward to sharing 2014 with each and every one of you. I’ve enjoyed every last minute of this blog for the last few months, and I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings!!

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I felt that it was fitting to start butter, basil and breadcrumbs’ 2014 the way that it began in September 2013… with a savory tart.  This one isn’t as complex as my Rustic Tomato Tartlet, but it certainly has the flavor of a complex tart. Of course, it definitely has to involve bacon and some sort of caramelized sweet onions…and what would it be without some sort of cheesy goodness?

I had a lot of potatoes to use up this morning.  I wasn’t really hungry for potato soup, or scalloped potatoes, or potato salad.  I was limited on ingredients because I didn’t have the desire to run to the store, which would have meant changing into decent clothes and taking my hair out of the ponytail. Lazy. And in the same fashion as I usually prepare a meal, I started rummaging through the fridge to see what I had on hand. Pepper Jack cheese. Eggs for custard. Onions. How about roasted balsamic onions? And bacon.  A potato tart it would be. Perfect.

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I have to say that I love this tart. I just love it when you can throw some simple ingredients together to come up with a recipe worth saving. It’s simple. It’s rustic. It’s perfect as a side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It’s perfect to be the main course for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Potato and Onion Tart

I used a 9×9 square tart pan with a removable bottom.

The whole time I was preparing this tart, I kept wishing that I had sharp cheddar in the fridge, because I really believed it would really make this tart what my taste buds thought it should be.  But…after taking that first taste of this tart, those taste buds of mine were absolutely certain that the pepper jack was the honest to goodness cheese for this tart.

Since I made this for breakfast, I thought that a couple of fried eggs would top it off nicely.  I was right!

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You’ll notice that the picture shows five potatoes in a pan of water.  That’s what I started out with, but to be honest, I only used three of the potatoes.  The other two are now a small potato salad in the fridge.

Tart Filling:
3 medium potatoes, all the same diameter
3 medium onions, all the same diameter
8 oz pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
½ pound bacon
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
Custard (recipe below)
1 tsp dried rosemary

Boil three medium size (same size) potatoes until they’re tender, but not completely softened. When they’re cooled, slice into ½” slices.  Set aside.

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Slice three medium onions that are about the same diameter into ½” thick slices.  Place each slice on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and a generous amount of balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about ½ hour, until the onions are soft and browned.  Remove from oven, set aside.

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While the onions are roasting, fry ½ pound of bacon until crispy.  Roughly chop.  Set aside.

Custard:
6 egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
pinch of cayenne (or more to suit your desired heat)

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and cayenne until well blended.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

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For the tart, I used Aunt Linda’s pie crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

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Use plenty of flour, and roll the dough into a ball. Cut the dough ball in half, and if you’re using a square tart pan, shape the dough into a square.  (You can refrigerate the other half of the dough for a later use) Using plenty of flour on your rolling board, roll the square to 1/8 inch thick.  Press the square of dough into the tartlet pan, and fold the overlapping dough back down the inside of the pan to make the sides of the tart sturdy.  I always weigh my pie crust down with dried beans and a piece of aluminum foil. To make it easier to handle the tart pan, place it on a baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove the pie weight and let the crust cool in the pan. Set aside. Do not remove the crust from the pan at this point!! 

To assemble the tart:

When the tart crust is cooled, spread 2 tablespoons of spicy brown mustard on the bottom of the crust.  Spread the chopped bacon over the bottom of the crust. Spread the pepper jack cubes over the bacon.

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Layer the top of the tart starting with the potatoes, and alternating with the onions, until the tart is filled.

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Pour the custard over the potato and onion layers, making sure that the custard fills all of the nooks and crannies between the potatoes and onions.

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Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is set.

Serve immediately as a side dish, or your main course.  Enjoy!!

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Coconut Cream Cupcakes

Well, I’ve gone and done it again.
I made cupcakes.

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I know, I know…I promised that I wouldn’t do it again so soon…But please let me explain.. it was my father’s birthday yesterday… and I really wanted to make him a birthday cake, a double layer coconut cream…but I haven’t had much luck making layer cakes stay together. Please see Exhibit A, which is basically a picture of the flopped cake that I made for Katie’s birthday this year. A pathetic attempt if ever there was… and it was perfect timing too…because as it was falling off the plate, Katie walked into the house just in time to help me try to catch the falling pieces. If anything, it was good for a really good giggle… The cake ended up in pieces on a cookie sheet, but the taste was still there!

If you’ve read my other posts, then you know that I have these grand visions of how perfectly things are going to go when I’m preparing a meal.. The cake stand in the picture was a part of Katie’s birthday gift.  I had this magnificent plan to have an absolutely beautiful cake sitting atop this cake stand, so when she walked in, she would be so surprised and happy…but as you can see… it turned out to be more of a horror story!

It’s not the gift, but the love behind it, right? Seriously though, we still laugh about it today…

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Anyway… back to my father’s birthday….like I said, I really wanted to make him a cake, but…well, let’s just say I really stink at layer cakes.  Plus I was on a time constraint… So, cupcakes it had to be. Pa didn’t mind…as a matter of fact, he ate two of them right after dinner!

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“Delicious..” he said.. which I believe put me right on the “Favorite Daughter” list. (I’m his only child… he has no choice!!).

We had a lovely time at my parent’s house, celebrating Roy’s 76th birthday. What do they say? 76 is the new 56.. or something like that. That statement couldn’t be more true. He doesn’t age, and is as handsome, intelligent, and funny as ever.

Happy Birthday Pa… I love you…

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Coconut Cream Cupcakes
(Makes 16 cupcakes)

My father was my guinea pig last night. Truth be told, I don’t think he minds one bit. You know, when you throw some flour, sour cream, and a few eggs into a mixing bowl, you kind of pray for the best. You know it’s going to be a cake….You just don’t know how mushy; or how rock solid it’s going to be! I think I just might have hit it somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. They turned out to be moist enough, and not overly sweet. Not overly sweet is a good thing, because the cake was able to balance the sweet coconut custard filling, as well as the sweet coconut topped frosting.  I received thumbs up all around the table… and that makes me happy. Coconut happy.

The Coconut Custard
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the egg and yolks in a small bowl, add about a 1/4 cup of the heated heavy cream into the eggs, and whisk quickly…and then pour the egg/heavy cream mixture back into the pan. Add the sugar, cornstarch, butter, and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and boil until the custard thickens (about 2 minutes) whisking constantly. Remove from heat, pour into a large bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and cool completely in the refrigerator.  After the custard has cooled, stir in the coconut. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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The Cupcake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a 12 cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed, add the sugar, egg and yolks, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Increase speed to medium, and mix for 2 minutes.  Batter will be thick.

Add 2 tbsp of batter to each cupcake liner.  Place in pre-heated oven, and bake for 16 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack, and repeat for the remaining 4 cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool completely.

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Now for the fun part… When the cupcakes are completely cooled, spoon the coconut custard into a 14″ pastry bag that has been loaded with a large tip.  I used an Ateco 824 for this.  Stick the tip right into the middle of the cupcake, and squeezing the pastry bag carefully, pipe a little bit of custard into each cupcake until a little of it puffs out of the top of the cupcake.

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The Frosting
1 cup salted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups flaked coconut in a shallow bowl
Silver dragees, optional

In the mixing bowl, and on low speed, combine the butter, vanilla, and salt.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it is completely blended. Add the heavy cream a little at a time until the frosting reaches spreadable consistency.  Increase the mixer’s speed to medium and mix for about 2 minutes longer.

Spread each filled cupcake generously with frosting. Dip each cupcake into the coconut until the frosting is completely covered.  Decorate with the silver dragees if you choose.

Enjoy!

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I really want to make layer cakes, so here is a question for you. I’m thinking that maybe I don’t wait long enough for the cakes to cool completely. Can I freeze the layers of cake, and then frost them while they’re frozen? Would they just fall apart after they thaw? The cakes are homemade, so while they’re on the moist side, they’re still pretty dense. I can’t imagine that they’re so overly moist that they can’t hold the frosting. Or maybe it’s the frosting…maybe I make it way too heavy. Any suggestions?