Thursday, March 18, 2010

Michelin starred tartlet?

Each year, Michelin stars are awarded to the greatest restaurants in the world based on the quality of ingredients, skills in their preparation, combination of flavors, levels of creativity, value for money and consistency of culinary standards. The Michelin Guide which awards these stars is a hotel and restaurant guide created by the Michelin brothers. Yes, of the Michelin tire company!






It's so funny how a tire company is connected to high-end food, right? Well, in France in 1900 these two brothers being incredibly business-savvy, decided to publish a guide for car owners- which were no more than 3,000 at that time in France- listing gas stations where they could find petrol, places where they could change or buy those all-important tires and a list of decent eateries where they could have a good meal. Nowadays, this guide is a revered little book for foodies all over the world in which they can find the best restaurants to dine in. For chefs on the other hand, seeing a star next to their restaurant in this guide is one of the highest accolades they can ever receive.






The guide can award up to 3 stars to a certain establishment and chefs go absolutely crazy over them, especially European chefs. Getting a star means putting their restaurant on the culinary map, more money, status, but sometimes losing a star can have devastating effects, the closing of one's restaurant being the least of them. I was watching a documentary about the Michelin stars and I was shocked to hear that in 2003 one of the most famous and accomplished 3-starred chefs in France, Bernard Loiseau, fearing that he was going to lose one of his stars, ended up taking his own life.






I've never eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant so I can't tell you what a Michelin starred dish tastes like, but sometimes I wonder if there should be a Michelin star for home cooks. Given to us by our loved ones, the ones we cook for and share our passion for food with. Perhaps they would be more lenient than an anonymous Michelin star inspector who gets paid to eat but hey, I don't mind. When my boyfriend tasted this tartlet he said it was worthy of a Michelin star and I believed him.






Oh, this glorious tartlet. Isn't it a sight for sore eyes? Wait till you get a taste of it! I have one word for you, well actually two words: caramelized onions. I don't know about you, but I'm craaaazy about onions. I have a special place in my heart for them. Caramelized onions for me might even be the best part of a meal.






You take a simple yellow onion, you slice it, you put it in a pan with a little olive oil and you just let it slowly and gently fry. You can see its progress, from white it becomes pale and translucent, then yellow and then it starts taking on a golden color and the aromas start filling your kitchen and after a while the caramelization is in full swing. Golden brown onion sizzling in the pan, you scraping away bits of it and finally the time comes. You get to taste it. What a flavor, what a sweet flavor. Adding it in these phyllo tartlets surely elevates the quality and savor of those beautiful flower-like edible creations, but try topping a juicy steak with it or adding it on top of toasted slices of baguette. The taste will blow you away.






Back to the tartlet though where besides the onions, I give you sweet leeks, woody pine nuts, earthy thyme, tangy blue cheese and Roquefort in particular, a luscious cream-egg mixture and phyllo. Phyllo (or filo) pastry, the traditional Greek, crispy, thin pastry that is to die for! Combine everything and you get a tartlet made in heaven. One bite and your taste buds will awaken with these divine, elegant flavors. Don't be scared of the Roquefort, I assure you it does not overpower the other flavors, it rather complements them. The egg-cream mixture is light and the baked phyllo is just perfect, crunchy and buttery. Accompany this delicious tartlet with a leafy salad and a chilled bottle of white wine and you're set. It's wonderful for lunch and you can also serve it as a first course for a fancy dinner.











Phyllo Tartlets with Caramelized Onions, Leeks and Roquefort Cheese
Adapted from Delicious magazine

I used low-fat cream for these tartlets but you can use full-fat. You can also substitute the olive oil for the frying of the leeks with butter and even though Roquefort cheese was my cheese of choice, feel free to use any other blue cheese you prefer, like Stilton or Fourme D'Ambert.
I used both loosed-bottomed and regular tartlet tins although it is a bit easier to get the tartlets out of the loose-bottomed ones.








Yield: 4 tartlets (and 4 heaped Tbsp of caramelized onions)


Ingredients

for caramelized onions
1 large onion (250-270 g)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dry white wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

for tartlets
4 large sheets phyllo pastry
2 leeks (115 g) white and pale green part only, finely sliced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 medium-sized eggs, lightly beaten
100 ml low-fat cream
4 heaped Tbsp caramelized onions
2 Tbsp pine nuts
60 g Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: 8.5 cm loose-bottomed or regular tartlet tins

Preparation

for caramelized onions
Cut onion in half lengthwise and then cut it into 0.5 cm-thick slices. The whole process of cooking the onions will take 50-55 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a wide (for maximum pan contact with the onions), medium-sized, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. As soon as oil starts to shimmer, add the onion slices and coat them well with the oil by stirring them around in the pan with a spatula. Then spread them equally around the pan and continue to stir occasionally. Lower heat to medium. After 10 minutes, season them with salt and black pepper and sprinkle them with sugar. Stir them around and let them cook. Stir every 7-8 minutes until they become translucent and slightly golden.

After about 30-40 minutes, begin to stir onions more frequently, every 4 minutes or so, so that they don't get burned or get stuck at the bottom of the pan. You might want to turn the heat down to medium-low at this point.
Once onions begin to brown, you need to stir them around every 1 minute with preferably a metal spatula, so that you can scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Continue to cook and scrape the bottom of the pan until the onions have taken on a rich, dark golden brown color, and at the end of the cooking process add the wine in order to deglaze the pan. Cook for further 2-3 minutes and place onions on paper towels to drain any excess oil.

You can store the caramelized onions in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for several days.






for tartlets
Toast the pine nuts by placing them in a small sauté pan and dry-frying them over medium-high heat, stirring them around so that they don't burn, for 3-4 minutes, until they take on a golden brown color.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

In the same sauté pan that you caramelized the onions in, pour the 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the leeks. Sauté for 3 minutes until softened and any water that comes out of them is evaporated. Add the thyme, salt and black pepper and cook for further 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl mix the eggs with the cream and beat lightly with a fork to blend. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Cut the phyllo sheets into 12 square pieces (15 x 15 cm each) and brush the tops with melted butter. Grease 4 tartlet tins with melted butter and then layer 3 sheets of buttered phyllo in each tin so that the phyllo creates a star-shape. Spoon the caramelized onions on the bottom of each tin, then follow with the sautéed leeks and thyme. Then sprinkle a few pine nuts and top with the crumbled Roquefort cheese. Finally pour the egg-cream mixture on top.
Place tins on baking tray, put on the lower rack of the oven for 15 minutes and bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crispy and the filling of the tart has just set.

Remove from oven and let tartlets cool slightly on a wire rack before removing them very carefully from the tins.

Serve immediately.

I'll let you in on a little secret. The next day I had one leftover tartlet so I reheated it in the microwave for half a minute. It tasted fantastic!





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16 comments:

  1. I love how you illustrated the onions caramelizing. I want one of these tarts, although I could probably eat two. :)

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  2. Thank you Tracy. Two tartlets coming right up! :)

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  3. These looks so incredible, I wish I had the patience to take photos of the preparation, but I'm not a patient person = )

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  4. Great looking tartlets which look tempting to make.

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  5. lovely photos...i am so crazy about leeks, it almost makes me sad winter is over

    a bientot
    the paris food blague

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  6. I think these would be lovely on a picnic served with Champagne, maybe? Caramelized onion and Roquefort cheese... swoon.

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  7. These look to die for! I can't wait to try them out. Here in Florence, the newish American Bakery makes an amazing bagel sandwich with carmelized onions and gorgonzola - yum!

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  8. Girl Japan, I think the prep photos are very helpful while trying to cook and I am a patient person :)

    Ivy, thank you!

    forgsandmen, I'm crazy about leeks too! Especially the young ones, they're so tender and sweet.

    Just a plane ride away, Champagne would be absolutely great!

    Kate-Amie-Kate, thanks for stopping by. Bagel sandwich... sounds yummy and gorgonzola is another incredibly tasty blue cheese.

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  9. i could easily eat the whole lot - leeks and onions and cheese are one of the best food combinations in the world

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  10. What an amazing post. I had no idea that The Michelin tire company was the same one that ranked restaurants. It would indeed be wonderful if there were Michelin stars for home cooks, I would give you one for sure.

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  11. Ohh, these look delectable! My grandmother makes a leek-onion pie that looks like a bigger version of these, but mini is better! Can't wait to try these out!

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  12. Γιώργος /ΑθήναMarch 23, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Μάγδα, διακρίνω επαγγελματική φροντίδα σε κάθε σου ανάρτηση!
    Λάθος: ο χαρακτηρισμός περί επαγγελματικού δεν επαρκεί για τα "χειροποιήματά" σου...Πιστεύω ότι πίσω από τη λεπτομερή περιγραφή, λόγω και εικόνα, όλα είναι ΕΞΑΙΡΕΤΙΚΑ προετοιμασμένα, δοκιμασμένα, γνήσια...
    Μένω δε εντυπωσιασμένος με τη διαρκή αγαπητική σου διάθεση να μας προσφέρεις!!!
    Θα σε παρακολουθώ πλέον συχνότερα...Πάντα δημιουργίες!

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  13. I too love those pics of the onions caramelizing! And caramelized onions make everything delicious! These tartlets do sound quite good. You've got so many great components: the leeks, the onions, the Roquefort, the pine nuts ... great flavor combination!

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  14. Mediterranean kiwi, it is isn't it?

    Nisrine, thank you :)

    Tumbleweed woman, a big tart with this combo would be amazing.

    Γιώργο καλώς όρισες στην "κουζίνα" μου και σ'ευχαριστώ πολύ για τα καλά σου λόγια :) Να'σαι καλά!

    Maria, thank you!

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  15. Thanks Magda for the info about Michelin, I never knew that.

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  16. I can't believe that a michelin star is so important that someone would take his life for fear of losing one - crazy right? But I guess that's how life goes. Having said that, if there was a michelin rating for tarts - these would be on top.

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