Is there anything better than caramelized onions? The melt in your mouth texture, the sweet/savory flavor—I just love them. A few years ago I was looking for an appetizer using caramelized onions for a Christmas party; and when I couldn’t find one that suited me, I cobbled one together. I found one recipe that used figs, another that used Gruyere cheese, and a third that made the onions into small tartlets. I took these elements and used my go-to pie-crust recipe to make these tartlets using a standard muffin-tin.
As I tend to do, I went overboard on the Christmas party that I originally made these for. I prepped food for days, and in the end there was too much of it (not surprising, as the word party is really an over-statement – this was actually a small family gathering of four people). These tartlets were a clear winner though, in the sea of leftovers there were only two left.
These have become a go-to fall/winter appetizer for me (and the go-to suggestion from others of what I should make). They’re tasty, easy to eat while standing around chatting, and while they do require a lot of prep time, they can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge with no ill effects.
I now make these tartlets in mini-muffin tins – it makes more of them to go around! This recipe easily makes 36, with onions and fig-paste to spare (makes a great grilled-cheese sandwich!). If making normal-muffin sized tartlets it should make about 12.
These are a great thing to make ahead of time – you can do all the prep-work and then wrap the prepared tartlets in cling wrap and refrigerate for a few days before baking.
I used a higher quality Gruyere when I made the tartlets this time around. When shredded, it was paper-like, and a pinch of the cheese melted down to nothing in the oven. If using a higher-quality cheese, add a bit more than you think you need.
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp butter
Dash sugar and salt
8 small figs (approx 2 oz), preferably Turkish
approx 1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
For a single-crust pie. My recipe is here
1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Slice the onions in half longitudinally, then slice thinly, crosswise. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat, add the onions and sprinkle liberally with sugar and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until all the onions are soft, brown and fragrant. Towards the end there will be a lot of crustiness built up on the sides of pan, use the onions (or a bit of water) to scrub it off and incorporate the crusty tastiness into the caramelized onions. Set aside to cool.
While the onions are cooking, chop the figs finely and place in a small pot (it’s more important to chop them finely if you don’t have a blender). Cover the figs with water, add a dash of sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the figs are thoroughly re-hydrated (15-20 minutes), pour them and a 1/4 cup water into a blender and whirl briefly until a paste is formed. (If you don’t have a blender, mash the figs with a fork or potato-masher, it won’t create a smooth paste, but that’s not necessary) . Pour the paste back into the pot and continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated – if there is too much water it will pool on the top of the fig-paste. Set aside to cool.
Make your pie-crust. Roll out the pie-crust between two sheets of wax paper until it is approximately 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circles of crust and press them into your muffin tins – the circles should be approximately as large as the top of the muffin tins you are using – if using mini-muffin tins a large shot glass is good.
Place a 1/4 tsp of fig paste into each tartlet, then top with a heaping 1/4 tsp of caramelized onions, and a large pinch of shredded cheese. (I actually use a tiny dessert-spoon to fill the tartlets, it just happens to be 1/4 tsp in size. Put in what looks right. If making normal-muffin sized tartlets, you will need a few teaspoons of each ingredient).
If you’re not baking the tartlets now, wrap in cling-wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350
Bake the tartlets for 20-25 minutes until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted.
To remove the tartlets, scoop them out of the muffin tins with a spoon. If they do not come out easily the tartlets are under-cooked, pop them back in the oven for 3-5 minutes.