Throughout the years, my mother had a running joke about what we were having for dinner. "I haven't decided yet," was her usual reply. "But chop two onions and then I'll figure it out." Little wonder I developed such a fondness for these odoriferous members of the lily family. Onions have always been a staple ingredient in many of my recipes, and I have never hesitated to use them liberally.
Then I began to think about the differences between the various types of onions, what happens when they are used cooked, or raw, and how they might create a play of flavors when combined in the same recipe.
A savory tart of four different types of onions--shallots, Spanish onions, green onions and chives--seemed like a luscious avenue for experimentation. I decided to cook the shallots and Spanish onions to take advantage of their sweetness, but to leave the green onions and chives in the tart uncooked.
As the recipe began to take shape, I also noticed that the various onions I had chosen presented three different processing techniques. Shallots, which are small and firm, are processed like garlic (with the metal blade), by adding to the machine with the motor running.
Spanish onions, which are watery, must be peeled, cubed and processed to a coarsely chopped consistency with very brief half-second pulses or on/off turns.
Both the white and green parts of green onions can be nicely sliced if they are cut into lengths to fit upright in the food chute, packed snugly in the chute and sliced with a gentle push. Chives, however, are too fibrous and lightweight to be processed effectively, so I cut these into tiny rounds by hand.
All the onions go into the tart before the egg, cheese and cream filling is added. To downplay the sweetness of the cooked onions, I have processed tart, acidic fresh goat cheese (be sure to scrape off any rind) into the custard mixture. A dusting of processor-grated Parmesan gives the top of the tart a beautiful bronze finish.
1/4 pound frozen unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled dry white wine
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 (1-inch) cubes Parmesan cheese
4 medium shallots, peeled
2 medium Spanish onions, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bunch green onions, trimmed
1/4 pound (1/2 cup packed) fresh goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Several dashes ground nutmeg
Several dashes hot red pepper sauce
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
For crust, insert metal blade in dry processor. Add butter and process with 1-second pulses to chop to small-bead consistency. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, wine, egg yolk and 1 1/2 cups flour. Process with 1-second pulses until dough begins to clump. (Pulse in 2 tablespoons more flour if dough is sticky.)
Gather dough into flat disk and roll on generously floured surface into 14-inch circle. Roll up dough circle on rolling pin and unroll over 11-inch fluted quiche pan with removeable bottom. Ease dough into pan. Trim to form raised rim that is parallel and about 1/8 inch higher than pan side. Freeze 10 minutes. Pierce dough at 1-inch intervals with point of skewer. Or wrap and freeze overnight.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Line dough with foil and add pie weights or rice. Bake at 375 degrees 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Cool crust.
For filling, insert metal blade in machine. Grate Parmesan cheese by adding cubes to machine with motor on and processing until powdery. Set aside.
Mince shallots by adding to machine with motor on. Add Spanish onions and coarsely chop with half-second pulses. Empty contents of container into medium skillet and cook with olive oil over medium heat until lightly colored, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Cool.
Insert medium (4-millimeter) slicing disc. Cut green onions into even lengths to fit upright in food chute and slice with gentle push. Set aside.
Return metal blade to processor. Pulse together goat cheese, eggs, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg and hot pepper sauce until mixed. Add half and half and process until smooth, then add cream and process just until mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Brush inside of crust with mustard. Scatter cooked onion mixture, green onions and chives evenly over bottom of crust. Pour egg mixture over onions. Sprinkle with reserved Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees until center is just set, about 35 minutes. Serve lukewarm or tepid. (Can bake 4 to 6 hours ahead and reheat in 300-degree oven). Makes 8 servings.