Cheese is one of those things that I could eat all day everyday. Kind of like chocolate. Of course, if I did that, I would weigh 9,000 pounds and wouldn't be able to get out of bed. So I resist.
Like my mother, I am cursed with loving most kinds of cheeses. There are very few cheeses I've met and haven't liked (except Swiss, blegh), but goat cheese and I have a fickle relationship. For example, fried goat cheese on a salad? Don't mind if I do. But spreading goat cheese on a crostini feels like I've coated my mouth in glue. So although these goat cheese tarts sounded good in theory, I was somewhat skeptical about the finished product.
They begin as so many blissful things begin, with puff pastry:
After rolling out a defrosted sheet of puff pastry to about an 11'' square, I cut out two circles, each approximately six inches in size, using the top of a blender as a guide (how thrifty am I?). I repeated with the second sheet of puff pastry so that I had four circles. I put these circles on a parchment-lined sheet pan and placed them in the refrigerator to keep cool.
Although the recipe says these should be split between two sheet pans, they all fit onto one, leading me to believe that they were a little smaller than the supposed six inches, but they looked like a good size to me, so I wasn't too concerned. Plus, it meant one less pan to wash.
At this point, I preheated the oven to 425 and heated some olive oil in a large skillet. I added the onions and garlic:
and sauteed them over a relatively low heat for probably about 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until they were limp and there was little moisture left in the pan.
At that point, I added salt, pepper, white wine, and fresh thyme to the pan and continued to cook until the onions had started to caremalize and turn light brown.
For some inexplicable reason, Ina estimates this to take 10 minutes. Silly Ina. This took me another 25 minutes, at least. And caramelizing onions is one of those things that you just can't rush. Maybe I had the heat way too low, but I've caramelized onions many times before so I'm pretty familiar with the process. Perhaps Ina's onions are just magical and cook more quickly than your everyday, average grocery store onions. You know, kind of like her baking potatoes.
In the meantime though, between stirs, I prepped the rest of the ingredients:
herbed goat cheese, basil, Parmesan cheese, tomato
and did some work to the pastry circles. Using a paring knife, I scored a 1/4 inch border around the edge of each circle. Inside this scored border, I pricked the pastry with a fork
and sprinkled about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese in the center:
By this point the onions had finally caramelized lightly:
I added about 1/4 of the mixture to each pastry circle, again, staying within the scored edge:
On top of the onions, I crumbled about an ounce of the herbed goat cheese:
Trying not to get goat cheese all over my camera
Since I was using smaller, plum tomatoes instead of the larger variety which aren't very flavorful this time of year, I placed two slices of tomato on each tart instead of the one the recipe calls for:
After drizzling some olive oil over the tomato, I sprinkled it with the julienned basil, salt, and pepper:
Finally, I topped off the tarts with about 5 shards of shaved Parmesan cheese each:
These baked in the oven for about 25 minutes until the crust had puffed and all the cheese had melted. I served them alongside a simple green salad:
We could hardly wait to dig into these, although we probably should have since the hot goat cheese was more like molten lava than a dairy product. But once we got the feeling back in our tongues we really enjoyed these. Although the serving suggestion allots one tart per person, I assumed Dan and I would each want two since we were having them for dinner instead of lunch or an appetizer. But these were so rich, we both could only eat about one-and-a-half. The goat cheese wasn't overpowering due to the onion base, and the freshness of the tomato really helped to balance everything out. Tomatoes are yet another thing at which I usually gawk in disgust, but they were absolutely necessary in this recipe, and lightly roasting them gave them a not unpleasant flavor. Of course the flaky puff pastry dough was divine as usual, but you already knew that, didn't you?
Make this when: your brother brings home his vegetarian girlfriend and you need an appetizer that's somewhat hearty since you're serving Garlic and Citrus Chicken as the entree.
Next Course: French Bistro Steaks with Provencal Butter