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Earlier this month, I learned how to caramelize onions in my slow cooker. I first heard about this technique from my lovely friend E, and read more about it on various blogs and websites. Using hints from multiple sources… I did something completely different from everyone else. (This time it was not deliberate!) Maybe I was using a different slow cooker than other cooks used, because the “6-8 hours on High” I was reading about turned into an 18-hour process for me. I won’t give too much detail about my experience because I don’t plan to repeat it. Let’s just say that after 7 hours on High, I chose to turn the cooker down to Low so I could sleep (it was 11 pm, and they were not going to be done in an hour), and then turned it back up to High in the morning to finish cooking. Lesson learned? Don’t start caramelizing onions in a slow cooker at 4 pm. Will I try again? An emphatic yes, because the result is glorious.

I started with just over 3 lbs. of Spanish onions and netted about 3 c. of dark, sweet caramelized goodness. I used some in an onion dip for my Super Bowl party and a little more in soup, but still have quite a bit left. It would be a shame to lose any of this after my hard work patience, so I decided to throw together a quick tart for dinner last week. Holy simple goodness, Batman! Sometimes the best results come from just a few delicious ingredients. This tart gets substance from the mushrooms, creamy tanginess from the chevre, sweetness from the onions, crispy butteriness from the puff pastry and freshness from the thyme– a perfect balance.

If you don’t want to make caramelized onions yourself, you can buy them jarred in specialty food shops: I have seen them in Williams-Sonoma and at a local store here in Seattle. I think onion jam would also work well. But– try making some!  Despite my first experience, I can’t wait to do it again because it really is easy to do in a slow cooker, and the end product is worth any trouble you have along the way. It is so satisfying to stand in the fragrant steam of rich, savory onions and know you made them! Of course, you can do a traditional stove top method as well. Bon appetit!

Puff Pastry Tart with Caramelized Onions & Chevre (serves 4)

  • 1 square sheet of puff pastry (I used pre-made, frozen dough)
  • 1/2 c. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2/3 c. caramelized onions
  • 3 oz. chevre, crumbled
  • 1 T. fresh thyme
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. whole milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; lightly grease a pie plate or similar ovenproof dish. Thaw the puff pastry sheet according to the package directions and place in the pie plate, allowing the corners to hang over the edge. Arrange the mushroom slices on the bottom of the pastry dough and spoon the onions over them. Sprinkle with the crumbled chevre and thyme leaves and season with some fresh black pepper. Fold the overhanging corners in over the filling and pull the sides of the dough up to make sure they are holding everything in. Use a pastry brush (or a spoon) to lightly coat the exposed pastry dough with milk; this will help the browning process. Bake for 25-30 mins., until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is puffed up and golden. Serve with a simple salad.

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