Monday, July 9, 2012

Onion Pie Recipe


As my French husband's grandmother once told me, "Every recipe that I know of always begins by peeling an onion." And she is right. Especially for any traditional French recipe. France and onions go together about as much as France and Bordeaux wine. You can't separate the two.
The French love onions more than they love red wine and fresh baguettes. They love them some much that they even prepare onions as the main dish: stuffed onions, onion pie, onion soup and even onion purée!
Onions are a smart choice too. They are cheap; you can get them year round and they are healthy. Did you know that onions contain vitamin C? I am sure you know they are fat, cholesterol and sodium free.
Onions of course, have been around since the beginning of time. Or so it seems. The Ancient Egyptians ate them and used them to replace the eyeballs in mummies. Romans ate them on bread for breakfast. (These must be the same people who ate raw garlic before going into battle.) Native Americans ate them too.
Just about every culture uses onions in one form or another. But the French like to use them in every form. When green onions are in season, the French serve them just like we Americans do: on the side with salt (and butter). I would have to say that the best way to eat onions is when they are cooked until their sugars turn into a crispy caramel.
I received a request for tarte à l'onion, onion pie, from a reader who had eaten this dish years ago while on vacation in France. It's simple to make and fills the house with a wonderful smell that triggers the, 'Smells good. What's for dinner?' response from family members.
It's a nice cold weather recipe that goes well with soup, salad and some cozy home-made dessert like apple pie or brownies. It's a nice make-in-advance dish that can be reheated at the last minute. And it freezes well like most vegetable pies.
Onion Pie
Use a ready-made crust to save time and energy. Ham is traditionally used in the recipe but can be omitted without sacrificing taste. The cheese is not necessary but makes for a more sinful indulgence!
  • 1 ready-made savory pie crust
  • 4 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • optional: ½ cup ham, chopped
  • ½ cup grated Swiss cheese
For the Sauce:
  • 1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 ½ cups milk, any kind
  • salt and pepper/ul>
Peel and slice (or chop) onions. Gently sauté them in butter, margarine or olive oil in skillet with lid on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if onions begin to stick.
While onions are cooking, make bechamel sauce: melt 1 tablespoon butter or margarine in sauce pan on medium heat. Add flour and stir until completely combined with butter and until mixture starts to bubble. Add milk all at once, salt and pepper to taste. Stir constantly until sauce thickens, approximately 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread crust in pie dish. When onions are done, add to bechamel sauce, add ham if using; pour mixture into pie crust. Garnish with grated cheese, if using and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350° until brown and bubbly on top.
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