Puff pastry = dinner ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

04 July 2007

Puff pastry = dinner

Another exciting idea from the land of Nigel Slater is puff pastry: stuff that isn't dessert. In fact, it is totally dinner, or lunch, or plate of very flaky party food that sheds scales of crust all over the kitchen floor. It goes with beer! Have you ever had a puff pastry concoction that goes with beer? Probably not, because puff pastry is generally confined to such things as fruit tarts, or, much worse, horrifying "chocolate peanut butter marshmallow cups", for which you can find the recipe inside any box of pepperidge farm frozen puff pastry dough. The box is gone, so let me try to recreate it from memory.

Cut puff pastry into squares. Turn corners up to form cup. Fill with chunk of chocolate, chunk of peanut butter, and 3 STA-PUFT brand mini-marshmallows! STA-PUFT: the brand that devoured New York! Bake until golden and crispy.

We are clearly not having that for dinner. Instead, look what is in the oven:
Onion Puff!

sheet of frozen puff pastry
several onions, shallots, and other oniony devices
cheese for melting
parsley, or whatever herb you like with onion

First, thaw the puff pastry. You can also make it from scratch. I personally have never done so, and would find it very hard to contemplate in July: the month that requires sticking whatever pastry you may be making into the refrigerator every two seconds so as not to just completely melt the butter, let alone bring it to room temperature. A regular pizza dough would also work here.

Unfold the thawed dough and take a look at it. Chances are it's not thin enough for a full-sized tart. Flour the counter and roll it out to a more reasonable thickness and size. "No thicker than a coin" is the general rule I've heard (from Nigel Slater). Make it a good shape for your cookie sheet, then slide it into said sheet. Score a line around the edge for a crust, and prick the rest all over with a fork. The pastry will puff up a lot anywhere you don't prick it, so be thorough if you want defined edges.

Get out a pan and melt some butter. Use a lot.

Chop some onions into largish chunks and put them in the pan. I used two yellow onions and two shallots, which was barely enough, You want maybe five or six onions total for ultimate caramelized onion business. Sauté slowly no browning until they're all soft and melty. This may take a while.

In the meantime, take a look at your cheese. You could use a wide variety of mild cheeses here. I used the end of the rind of idizabal from the crostini the other day, plus mozzarella for serious melt quality. Slice your cheese thinly or grate it. Also at some appropriate point preheat the oven to 425F.

When the onions are ready, it's time to assemble. Spread the onions over the puff pastry. Spread the slices of cheese over the onion. Sprinkle a good lot of black pepper and some slightly old (i.e dry and crumbleable) fresh parsley over the whole business.

Put it in the oven and bake it until everything is crispy met melty. Golden-brown is clearly the ideal. Things will also puff up alarmingly; this is actually what you want here, so don't worry. It will only take about ten or fifteen minutes to cook, so check pretty often once you get within that range.

Take it out of the oven, wait the painful few minutes for it to cool enough to cut, and eat it.

As mentioned, drink cold beer. You could clearly go in a few directions with this, but I find that beer is entirely fine with me. I mean, at some point you realize that this is just really really good bar food. It's bread and onion and cheese! What would you do to have a neighborhood bar that served plates of this instead of breadsticks and cheese sauce? I believe the answer would be "plenty".

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