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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Potato Gnocchi

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I love to cook. It’s therapeutic for me. I can easily lose myself in cutting and chopping, sautéing or roasting…. I don’t know what I think about when I’m in that world, but I know they’re calm and happy thoughts…and that’s because I’m doing what I love to do the most.

So, because I love to cook, it’s no surprise that I love to make comfort food. If you were to ask my kids what their most favorite comfort food I make for them….without hesitation, I know that they would say chicken corn chowder. They love it, and are always requesting it.

They say chicken corn chowder.
But I know better.

It’s been my experience over the years that when I make gnocchi, I can feel a growing excitement in the house. It’s not long after I put the riced potatoes onto the butcher block; that one, two, or all three of them come to hang out with me in the kitchen. It’s my favorite time, when we’re all together… when we talk and laugh, and even argue at times…but most importantly, they’re the memories that they’ll have into their adulthood, and will share someday with their own children. And they’re the memories that I will always cherish.

It used to be that they’d hang out in the kitchen a lot longer, but life called, and now they’re adults…so they only stay for a little while before they have to run and do their own thing. That’s totally ok, and I know that it won’t be long before I’m making a 10+ pound batch for them to come and pick up to bring home for their families…and I’m ok with that. And who knows? There might come a time when the roles are reversed…and I’m ok with that too. It’s called life.  But they were there tonight, waiting patiently for the gnocchi to cook, and enjoyed them in a simple tomato sauce with meatballs and hard-boiled eggs (yes, hard-boiled eggs). Recipe will be posted tomorrow…

But for now, I’m completely content to make them in my kitchen, enjoying the company of my kids, even if it’s only for a few minutes, because that’s what it’s all about… life is good. Life is good with my kids…and gnocci.

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Potato Gnocchi

It took me a few tries (ok, many, many tries….years) to get this recipe right. I think I was in my 20’s the first time I made gnocchi, and I even remember the recipe that I used… from the Frugal Gourmet’s cookbook. It called for two tablespoons of salt in the ingredient list, and if I had read through the directions, I would have seen that those two tablespoons of salt were supposed to go into the water to boil them in, not into the actual dough. Needless to say..they were a little salty. Ok, A LOT salty!! Can someone say “Play-doh”??

Honestly, I used to stress over gnocci…and I’m not sure when the light bulb went on over my head, but I know it was a few years of failures before I finally figured them out. Now, I don’t even need to measure…I know what the dough is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to feel like…it’s like second nature.

If you’ve been trying to get the right gnocchi recipe, or even a little intimidated to try… this is the perfect recipe for you. It’s so easy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it makes enough gnocchi for a dinner for five people, and if you want to make more to freeze (because they freeze beautifully), you can double the recipe. Normally I’ll buy a 10 pound bag of potatoes and just spend a day making and freezing gnocci.

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If you don’t have a potato ricer, mashed potatoes work just as well. As a matter of fact, use your left over mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving!

If you don’t have a gnocchi board to make the indentations in your gnocchi, you can use a fork instead, or even leave them plain. Sometimes I roll them on the board, and sometimes I leave them plain. Some people say that you need the indentations so that the sauce will stick to the gnocchi. I say boloney. The sauce sticks to the plain gnocchi just as good as it does to the indented.

The gnocchi

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle with flour so that the gnocchi don’t stick. You will have several layers of gnocchi/parchment, just be sure to flour each layer of parchment.

6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (you’ll want four cups of riced or mashed potatoes)
3 eggs
1 cup Romano cheese
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Boil the potatoes in a large pot of water until they become tender. Drain. At this point, you can either mash them with an electric mixer (don’t add anything to them, i.e. butter, milk..), or you can rice them.

If you mash them, make sure that there are no chunks of potato left. If you do, it’s really no big deal, you’ll just have chunks of potato in your gnocci… Believe me, I mashed them for years, and they turned out fine.

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If you rice them, use a few cubes of potatoes at a time…rice them into a bowl. Set aside until they are cool enough to handle, because you’ll be mixing and kneading with your hands.

Pour the riced potatoes (4 cups) into a mound onto your floured work surface. Make a crater in the middle of the potatoes, and add the eggs, Romano cheese, and salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Add the flour, one cup at a time, kneading until incorporated. If the dough seems too sticky to make into a ball, add another ½ cup of flour. You don’t want to knead or handle the dough too much; otherwise you’ll end up with tough gnocchi.

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Using a knife or a dough scraper, cut a slice of dough from the ball, and roll it into about a 1-inch diameter log. Cut the log into 2” pieces. Repeat until all of the dough has been made into gnocchi.

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This next part is completely optional…

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Holding the gnocchi board in one hand, and using your thumb with slight pressure… roll the gnocchi down the board quickly.

Place each gnocchi onto the prepared cookie sheet lined with floured parchment. You’ll probably end up with four layers of gnocchi on the one cookie sheet.

If you plan to cook them right away, bring a large pot of water to boil with generous sprinkling of salt (about a tablespoon). In small batches, boil the gnocchi for about three to five minutes…or until the gnocchi begin to float. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon. Don’t drain, because you’ll have a few more batches to cook.

Serve with your favorite sauce.

If you’re going to freeze them right away, put the whole cookie sheet of gnocchi into the freezer, and let freeze individually so that you can throw them into a baggie, without them sticking together. Don’t try to skip this step. If you try to freeze them without pre-freezing the gnocchi, you’ll end up with a big blob of dough. Been there, done that.

Enjoy!

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