Jenny's Onion Tart from Outlander book Voyager

Jenny's Onion Tart from Voyager

I caught up with her just outside the barn; she heard my step behind her and turned, startled.  She glanced about quickly, but saw we were alone.  Realizing that there was no way of putting off a confrontation, she squared her shoulders under the woolen cloak and lifted her head, meeting my eyes straight on.

"I thought I'd best tell Young Ian to unsaddle the horse," she said.  "Then I'm going to the root cellar to fetch up some onions for a tart.  Will ye come with me?"

"I will."  Pulling my cloak tight around me against the winter wind, I followed her into the barn.

Voyager (Chapter 38 - I Meet a Lawyer)

Nothing like a little confrontation to clear the air between good-sisters.

Their tête-à-tête in the root cellar is tense to start, but by the end, Claire's and Jenny's anger has followed the path through mutual sadness and fear of rejection, then climbed to the peak of hope, promise and renewed friendship.

All accomplished face to face in a matter of minutes.

I love my modern life, full of social media and connectivity...but sometimes, I long for the simple 70s of my childhood -- when nobody phoned after 8pm, TV was 13 channels, and we all made friends on the playground instead of Facebook.

egg yolk for onion tart

The simplicity this onion tart makes it one of my favourite foods on earth.  It's on my brunch table, in one form or another, 9 times out of 10, and I always miss it when it's not.

Lightly sauteed onions and bacon are nestled in a buttery tart shell and blanketed with a velvety, egg-enriched bechamel.  It's creamier than a quiche and the onions are mild, despite the fact that they fill the crust.

This is also a favourite of my Chef Instructor from culinary school, Chef Patrice.  A regional dish from the French province of his birth, Alsace, he was very definite about how it should be prepared.  I've risked his wrath and made the bacon optional, but that's the only change I've made to his master recipe.

julienned for an onion tart

The knife skill that we learned before tackling this recipe for the first time was a julienne.  Julienned onions are used more often in professional kitchens than sliced because their size is relatively consistent, which means they cook more evenly.

To julienne an onion, trim the ends and peel.  Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then put the cut edge on the cutting board.  Work right to left - unless you're cack-handed ;) - and angle your knife to make graduated 1/8" to 1/4" thick slices.  When you get to the middle and your knife is at 90° to the cutting board, clear away the cut onions and tip the freshly cut edge down to the cutting board.  Again, working right to left, finish julienning the first half of the onion.

Repeat with the second half.

Confused?  There are more pictures here that will explain it all.

freshly ground nutmeg

What differentiates this tart from an onion quiche is the béchamel.

A béchamel is a basic white sauce made from milk, roux and seasonings.  A roux is equivalent amounts of flour and butter, cooked together.  Traditionally, the seasonings are salt, white pepper and nutmeg.

It's pretty much a cheese sauce before you add the cheese, with a little nutmeg to make it fancy.


All of the components of this dish - the crust, the bacon, the onions, the béchamel - can all be made up to 2 days ahead, then assembled and baked on the day you plan to eat it.  That said, I think this tart is even better a day or two after it's baked, so I always prepare it the day before, then pull it from the fridge a couple of hours before service, to give it time to come to room temperature.

Toss a green salad to go on the side, and brunch doesn't get much easier than that!


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