(This dish has its roots at a long ago gaming marathon when a small group of us (including Paul Yellovich who helped me relay this story on the first episode of Kitchen Table Gaming) played the Judge Dredd board game for more than the span of 24 hours. When we were done playing we had eaten everything there was to eat in Paul’s house and had less than $13 to muster between us. (It stands to reason that if we could stay up all night playing games we did not have jobs at the time.)
That money was spent on a stack of frozen pizzas, a package of hotdogs, a bag of Sabrett’s red hotdog stand onions, and a two-liter bottle of off brand root beer. In the end we would decide that the best way to consume our bounty was by rolling up the hot dogs and onions inside the cooked pizzas and washing the mess down with the soda. When I set out to update this recipe for KTG I was stumped until I saw a package of Dufour Puff Pastry peeking out from the back of my freezer.)
I like to make my recipes from as-scratch as possible but have not been willing to take the dive into making my own Puff Pastry yet. Especially when the Dufour brand one is so perfect. Lots of the bigger name brand versions use vegetable shortening but this one is made the way Julia Child intended — with real butter. I am sure you can use whatever Puff Pastry is available to you and this will be yummy but I get the Dufour at Whole Foods and it is totally worth going out of your way for and should in no way be limited to making this.
Puff pastry is a perfect vehicle for any number of savory and/or sweet foods from making personal Beef Wellingtons to apple tarts. I have done appetizers for more than a few family gatherings with it and never repeated a recipe twice. We had great heirloom tomatoes at the market last summer and I topped my pastry with thin slices of them nestled in an arugula pesto. Another time I made a fig and olive tapenade which was layered on puff pastry with thin fig slices and dotted with goat cheese.
Here is what I did to make these tarts but you should not let my imagination limit you any way:
Root Beer Caramelized Onion and Sausage Tart
4 thinly sliced Vidalia Onions (or any sweet onion if Vidalias are not available)
1 lb of Italian Sausage removed from its casing
6 oz pure cane sugar Root Beer.
2 tablespoon Honeycup brand honey mustard (sorry to be so brand specific with this recipe but I am addicted to this ingredient)
1 package Dufour Classic Puff Pastry
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese
2 teaspoon chopped thyme (fresh or dried)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
Salt and pepper
Cut and pastry
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a sautee pan cook the sausage over medium-high heat and break it up into smaller crumbles with a wooden spoon as you cook it. Remove pan from heat and set aside. In another, larger pan start cooking the onions in the olive oil with some salt and pepper. Whisk together the root beer and honey mustard. When the onions start to soften and turn translucent you can add them to the pan and toss the onions to coat. Continue cooking until the mixture has reduced and begun to caramelize with the onions. Add the sausage, pan drippings, and thyme and stir until they are all incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.
Flour your work surface and lay out the chilled puff pastry. With a floured rolling pin you can quickly smooth out any of the folds and then cut into six even pieces with a sharp paring knife. Place your pastry pieces on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and dock the center area with a fork. This will ensure that the sides will puff up but the center will provide a nice flat basin for your topping. You can also take trimmings of the puff pastry and “build” four walls, using a little egg wash as glue, along the perimeter of the pastry for an even more dramatic boxy presentation.
Spoon the sausage and onion mixture into the center of the pastry and top with the two cheeses. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash and put the tray in the refrigerator to chill again for about 30 minutes. It is essential for puff pastry to be cold when it goes into the oven so that the many layers of butter are not melting together. I have gone ahead and not rechilled my puff pastry with mixed results in the past.
Bake the chilled tarts in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and firm to the touch. A little fresh grated cheese never hurt anyone when serving.
Serves 6 to 12 depending on whether or not you slice these in two. Sometimes it serves 3.