Dinner is my favorite meal of the day. It doesn’t need to be special, but it needs to be dinner. For me, this means dedicating some time to the food on my plate and the people around me. Dinner has a slower pace than breakfast or lunch, and for some of us, it means that the hustle of our day is finally over. Weeknight dinner is great—maybe it’s pasta with a fried egg, or maybe it’s a pb&j sandwich with a glass of milk (yes, this is a thing). But Sunday Dinner—with a capital D—this is the king of all dinners. There is no pace. There’s just food and more food.
About a year ago, my fiancé and I moved closer to his family. Once we settled in, I asked my soon-to-be in-laws whether they’d be interested in attending a Sunday Dinner of cassoulet and other French foods. Here were my reasons: (1) Sunday Dinner was an important part of my life growing up and I wanted to share it with my new family; (2) I’d been wanting to tackle Julia Child’s cassoulet, but never had a large enough group of eaters (seriously, this dish is HUGE). So the family was in, and a few months later, we were all sitting around the table, eating the largest and heaviest dish I have ever cooked. We took our time, we listened to each other, and we all connected over what we were eating. We didn’t have to talk about it because we were all in the same place—a hearty, salty, and buttery place.
Eventually I’d like to share all of the recipes from our meal. I’d even like to talk to you about cassoulet, but that deserves its own entry (teaser: it’s a French casserole of beans and meats). For now, let’s talk about this onion tart. You can serve it as an appetizer or alongside some soup or a green salad. And if it makes it onto your Sunday Dinner menu?
The key to this tart is cooking your onions slowly and gently. Keep the heat low so you hear just the faintest sizzle. If at any point they begin to fry, lower the heat. You want them to wilt slowly and become a beautiful golden color. They will need to cook for about 40 minutes to an hour.
2 medium onions, approximately 10-12 oz each
1 14-oz package of frozen puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
2 1/2- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dry thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese, plus more for garnishing
1-2 tbsp minced parsley (optional)
salt and black pepper, to taste
*Note: onions can be cooked a day in advance. Once cooled, cover and place them in the refrigerator. Once you’re ready to use them, bring the onions to room temperature by removing them from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before preparing your tart.
Preheat your oven to 425ºF.
Peel and slice the onions into thin half moons. Put the olive oil and 2 1/2 tbsp of butter into a large pan and place over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, place the onions in the pan. The pan might seem to overflow a little. This is okay because the onions will shrink down a lot. Try your best to turn the onion slices to coat them in the fat. It will probably take two hands at first. Stir them rather frequently to keep them sweating evenly.
After the onions have sweated for about 20 minutes, add the thyme to the pan. Add a couple grinds or pinches of salt and black pepper. Keep stirring. If at any point you feel that there is not enough grease in the pan, add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of butter.
Once the onions appear soft and golden (about 40-50 minutes), add the balsamic vinegar to the onions, and continue to stir. They should cook for another 5-8 minutes, while stirring periodically.
During this last few minutes of cooking, roll out your puff pastry and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Poke a few holes in the pastry with a fork. If you’d like to turn the recipe into tartlets, cut the pastry into a grid of small rectangles. Pop the pan in the freezer for about 5 minutes so your pastry is nice and cold.
Remove the onions from the heat and remove your rolled out pastry from the freezer. Use a spoon to place dollops of the ricotta evenly over the pastry. Once your pattern is complete, use the back of the spoon to spread each dollop out. Have fun with your pattern! Sprinkle the grated gruyere throughout and add a couple grinds of black pepper. Spread your beautiful onions evenly over the pastry, and bake the tart in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. For tartlets, bake for about 18-22 minutes. The pastry will rise and become golden.
Remove the tart from the oven and drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top. Sprinkle with minced parsley and more cheese, if desired. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. You may serve it warm or at room temperature.