Alsatian Onion Tart

I don’t do a lot of baking, but sometimes I come across a recipe that inspires me to go outside of my culinary comfort zone.  Such was the case when I saw Hubert Keller make this dish on his PBS television show, Secrets of a Chef.

Having made pies and tarts in the past, I came to realize that I’d never baked anything savory using homemade pastry dough and thought it might be a good time to try.  While I’ve eaten the pizza-like rendition of the French favorite, pisaladière on a few occasions, I’d never seen a version like this before.  Definitely a bit more substantial than it’s flatbread cousin, the salty, pungent flavors of niçoise olive and anchovies are offset by a creamy, custardy filling of caramelized onions and smokey bacon.  While it was great served warm for dinner, a slice of this pie would be perfect at room temperature served alongside a lightly dressed, mixed green salad for lunch.


from Hubert Keller’s, Secrets of a Chef

If you want the unadulterated Alsatian version of this dish, simply omit the olives and anchovies.  Making the caramelized onions for the filling is very similar to the technique used for making French Onion dip but with the addition of water to aid in the sweating process.  Finally, if you decide to use salt-packed anchovies, be sure to rinse them thoroughly after filleting and consider soaking them if they are especially salty.


For the pastry dough:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup ice cold butter, diced
  • 4 tablespoons ice water

For the pie filling:

  • 5 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 sliced bacon, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 4 onions, thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 /2 cups milk, cold or at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup pitted niçoise olives
  • 3/4 cup anchovy fillets, oil or salt packed


To make the tart crust:

  1. Place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse on and off until the mixture resembles wet sand or coarse meal, about 10 seconds.  Add the ice water and pulse a few more time to barely incorporate the dough.  You are looking for the dough to just hold together when pressed between your fingers.
  2. Turn the dough out to a lightly floured work surface and firmly press the dough together with your hands to form a thick flattened disk.
  3. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in your refrigerator for 2 hours or as long overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°. Unwrap the chilled dough and roll the disk out into a large circle about 1/16 inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan and trim off the excess.  Pinch the dough in 1-inch locations around the perimeter of the pan to ensure a decorative crust.  Make sure to press the dough into pie pan to make sure there are no air bubbles.
  5. Lightly butter the shiny side of a 12-inch square of aluminum foil and place inside the pastry shell, shiny side down.  Fill the pie shell with about 1 1/2 cups of dried beans or pastry weights.  Bake the pastry shell in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Remove the pastry shell from the oven and discard the beans and foil.  Return the shell to the oven and bake a few minutes longer, or until the crust is lightly golden.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the filling:

  1. While the pastry shell is baking, cook the bacon in a large pan over medium-low heat until the bacon is almost crisp and its fat has rendered.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon from the pan to set aside and proceed to add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter along with the onions, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and water.  Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the onions are soft and lightly caramelized, stirring often.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat before adding the flour to make a roux.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly to cook the rawness out of the flour.  Whisk in the milk slowly, continuing to stir constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Season with nutmeg,  salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and fold in the eggs one at a time.  Add the reserved bacon along with the caramelized onion mixture and stir to combine.  At this point you should taste the mixture for seasoning.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pastry shell and arrange the anchovies in straight lines about an inch apart.  Repeat with a second layer of anchovies at a 45° angle to form a diamond pattern.  Place one olive inside of each of the diamonds and sprinkle on some thyme leaves.
  5. Bake the tart in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the filling is just set.  Remove to a wire rack to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings

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  1. Sounds wondeful! Lovely photos too!

  2. An onion pie sounds so good!

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