In Our Kitchen: Savory Onion Pie from an unlikely source

Two-lane roads led us down to Pearl in the Grove, a small Dade City restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. Outside on the unpaved parking lot, the sky is bright with stars I can't see from my home closer to Tampa.

During our meal, the restaurant's owner came by our table to see how Danny and I liked the fried green tomatoes, roasted chicken, lamb and that little dark chocolate layer birthday cake made just for this table, but it was the slice of onion pie that really got our attention. He told us more about the pie, warm and soft with a buttery, biscuit-like crust underneath a layer of slightly caramelized and slightly sweet onions. He said the pie was their version of a recipe from English food writer Nigella Lawson.

Days later, and I couldn't get this pie out of my head. A quick search led me to a recipe on epicurious.com from the April 2001 issue of Gourmet magazine. The birthday dinner at Pearl led me to another birthday gift, a collection of more than 100 Gourmet magazines, including the issue featuring the onion pie with a scone crust. The collection was a gift from Danny, who tends to eat Chinese takeout and buy kitchen gadgets when I'm out of town for the weekend. But this time he also shopped eBay for one of my favorite presents ever.

Gourmet tweaked Lawson's recipe from her cookbook How to be a Domestic Goddess to better suit an American audience. The crust was lightened and the red onions, which apparently turn an unappealing pale purple when cooked, were replaced with yellow ones. I replaced the yellow onions with white onions and increased the count from 1 to 2.

One week after trying this pie, we spent a morning rolling out our own. It's not difficult to put together, and the pie is made mostly of simple ingredients. Cheese. Butter. Flour. Onions, which only need time and heat (and maybe a little butter) to soften into something so powerfully good it lures you into the kitchen to pick a slippery slice right out of the hot pan.

Don't hesitate on flipping the pie, though running a knife around the edges before doing so is a good idea. A few minutes to let the pie cool is all you need, and was about as long as I could wait for my slice. Those soft onions and Gruyere ease the pie right out of the pan with just an onion or two staying behind.

Eat it warm. Serve it to friends. And yes, feel like a domestic goddess.

Ileana Morales is a freelance writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be contacted at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

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Savory Onion Pie

This simple pie of onions, herb and cheese first drew me in with its scone crust. The pie sits on a layer of what truly tastes like a golden, flaky biscuit, and it is fantastic served alongside roasted chicken. The pie is best still warm from the oven and eaten the same day it was baked.

For the onion filling:

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 or 2 large white onions (1 ½ to

2 pounds), each cut lengthwise into 12 wedges and layers separated

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a couple sprigs for garnish

½ teaspoon salt, plus more

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 ounces (¾ cup) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

For the scone crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

2 ounces (½ cup) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

¾ cup buttermilk

¾ teaspoon dry mustard

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Take skillet off the heat. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Let cool.

Mix cheese with onions. Spread into the bottom of a 9 ½-inch glass pie pan.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor. Add cheese and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk buttermilk and dry mustard together in a small bowl before adding to the dough mixture, then pulse until liquid is mixed in and dough starts to clump. Don't let it form into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, folding it over on itself a few times to lightly knead. Roll the dough into a ball. Cover the dough loosely in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Flatten out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, using a rolling pin to form the dough into a 10-inch round. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, and flip the dough onto the onion in the pie pan. Peel off the last layer of plastic wrap and use your fingers to tuck in dough around the side of the pie.

Bake pie in the middle of the oven until crust is golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool pie on a wire rack or pot holder for a few minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the pie to loosen, then place a plate over the pie and flip it over and onto the plate. Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with a few sprigs fresh thyme. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

Source: Adapted from Gourmet and How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

In Our Kitchen: Savory Onion Pie from an unlikely source 10/02/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 4:30am]

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