I recently had the privilege and great fun of attending the All Cheese cooking class at Coquette Café. My foodie friend Denise has been raving about the classes at Coquette Café for a while, proclaiming them to be “a two hour vacation.” Now that I’ve joined her at one of these events, I’m left wondering what took me so long!
Four chefs took turns sharing their humor, high energy, and crazy talent as they walked 40 or so lucky guests through the preparation process for a complete, four course meal, while efficient and unobtrusive staff served generous portions of each dish. Topping off the experience, a friendly and approachable sommelier was on hand to walk us through delicious wine pairings. Try not to drool on your computer…
Oven-Dried Tomato, Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tart paired with 2012 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigar (Rose), Santa Cruz, California
Pan-Seared Hanger Steak, Bleu Cheese Butter, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Haricot Verts paired with 2012 Chilensis Malbec, Central Valley, Chile
Lemon Cheesecake with Fresh Berries and Marscapone Cream paired with 2012 Centorri Moscato di Pavia IGT, Lombardy, Italy
As part of the class, Coquette Café generously provided a take-home packet of recipes. The chefs repeatedly emphasized that these recipes were intended as templates for creating dishes in our own kitchens, a message I took to heart. I was particularly enamored with the first course, and set out to modify the provided recipe to make it suitable for Crowded Earth Kitchen. I converted weights into volumes, changed a few proportions, modified the onions slightly, and baked one large tart rather than individual servings. The recipe below isn’t Coquette Café’s precisely, but it’s close. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you find yourself in the Milwaukee area, I highly, highly recommend taking in a cooking class at Coquette Café!
Directions for Caramelized Onion, Oven-Dried Tomato & Chevre Tart (makes a nine inch tart)
Tomatoes (prepare in advance):
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons Herbes de Provence (Coquette Café uses their own secret blend; I like Penzey’s)
½ teaspoon salt
Toss seeded tomato halves with olive oil, herbs, and salt in a large bowl. Place on a baking sheet with low sides, making sure the cut side of each tomato half is facing upward. Place tomatoes in your oven and dry at the LOWEST oven setting (mine is about 170 degrees F) possible. I left mine in the oven for about 4 hours and, to be honest, they could have probably used another hour or two. When you are satisfied with the dryness of your tomatoes, remove them from the oven. Finally, remove the peels from your dried tomato halves. Don’t worry – this is very easy. The peel will, well, peel right off, leaving you with beautiful, silky textured tomatoes.
6 tablespoons cold butter
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup cold vodka (When the alcohol evaporates during baking, you will be left with a flakier crust!)
Use a pastry cutter to cut slices of cold butter into the flour until butter is pea sized. Whisk together egg, water, and vodka. Add liquid mixture SLOWLY to the flour and butter mixture. Using clean hands, form dough into a ball and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and roll dough into a ten inch circle on a floured surface. Transfer dough to tart pan and gently press into place. Place a circle of parchment paper on top of the dough, and cover the parchment paper with dried beans (this will prevent big, unsightly air bubbles). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove beans (which may be reused for baking future tart crusts) and parchment.
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon white balsamic vinegar (this is my personal vinegar preference; feel free to substitute)
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
As your tart crust is baking, melt butter and oil together in a very hot saute pan. Add onions and stir, stir, stir. Then stir, stir, and stir some more. Keep stirring. You are looking for golden brown color – “caramel” color – but absolutely no black specks! If your onions start to stick, add a tablespoon of water (it will evaporate anyway). Once your onions are golden brown and completely soft, add the vinegar, pepper, and salt. Continue stirring over heat until the onions are dry.
This is the fun part, where all of your efforts come together! First, cover bottom of your tart shell with caramelized onions. Second, arrange your oven-dried tomatoes on top of the onions. Finally, top it all off with little spoonsful of Chevre cheese (4 ounces total). Bake at 375 degrees for about 3 minutes, until the Chevre looks melty and irresistible. Remove from oven and slice with a very sharp knife. Enjoy this remarkable dish!