One of my favorite weekly reading rituals occurs when “America’s Finest News Source,” The Onion, hits news stands or posts new content at its website. During some of the darkest political days, months, and years following 9/11, one of the few papers I could read without wanting to cry was The Onion. As some of my favorite satirists can attest (Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders, and Jon Stweart), sometimes satire is the only way to safely and succinctly express unsavory truths about the human condition.
If you’re worried that the Onion is too political for your liking, let me allay your anxiety with a few of my favorite links from this week’s edition. If you’re a Tolkien fan, click here. If you or someone you know have their parents’ phone number on speed dial and aren’t afraid to use it, click here. Or if you’re having a hard time finding that “perfect” gift, the Onion’s official gift guide might be the missing link for your search.
If none of those news stories can make you laugh until you cry, might I suggest the recipe featured below? After finely slicing 3 pounds of furious onions as part of the recipe, I imagine your eyes will be streaming with tears as you raise your knife in my general direction and cackle maniacally.
Before you wonder what kind of sick joke I’ve played on you, try a slice of the finished product. You’ll see that I had your best intentions in mind. Savory with a slight caramelized sweetness, this onion tart is phenomenal with a hearty mixed greens salad and a frosty glass of blood orange soda.
Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel (Gourmet Holiday: Special Edition)
Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main dish
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeasy (1/4-oz pkg)
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 lb yellow onions, halved and then thinly sliced
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)
2. Put 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl, then make a well in the center of flour and add yeast mixture to well.
3. Stir together egg, 1 Tbsp. oil, and 1 1/2 tsp salt with a fork. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or your fingertips, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Knead dough on a floured surface, working in additional flour (up to 1/4 cup) as necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Put dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
4. While dough rises, heat remaining 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté fennel seeds until a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Stir in onions, remaining tsp salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with rack in middle.
6. Punch down dough and pat out on a large heavy baking sheet into a 15-by12-inch rectangle, turning up or crimping edge.
7. Brush mustard evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spread onions evenly over mustard, then sprinkle with cheese.
8. Bake tart until crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into 2-inch pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.