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Gabriel Kreuther takes the humble onion tart – a classic in the northern French region of Alsace where he grew up – and gives it his own special treatment.
Note from the chef…
“This is a highlight of Alsatian farm cuisine – a simple onion tart, with bacon and cheese. It’s like a thin quiche. It uses only the simplest ingredients but when properly cooked is a supreme dish. I intensify the traditional recipe by using a purée of steamed onions as part of the custard for more onion flavour and sweetness. This was a regular feature of my childhood. My mother usually served it with a green or a celeriac salad.”
Gabriel Kreuther: From Alsace to the USA
From award-winning chef Gabriel Kreuther, The Spirit of Alsace is a definitive cookbook on the rustic French cooking of Alsace.
Kreuther is one of the most respected chefs in the United States and in this cookbook he showcases the recipes inspired by his French-Swiss-German training and refined global style, one that embraces the spirits of both Alsace, his homeland, and of New York City, his adopted home. As well as sharing his restaurant creations and interpretations of traditional Alsatian dishes, Kreuther teaches the proper techniques for making every dish – whether simple or complex – a surefire success.
Recipes include everything from the Kreuther’s take on classic Alsatian food like the delicious flammekueche (or tarte flambée) and hearty baeckeoffe (a type of casserole stew) to modern dishes like the flavourful roasted button mushroom soup served with toasted chorizo raviolis and the decadent salmon roe beggar’s purse garnished with gold leaf. As well as tales from his career as a chef in New York City, the book also features personal stories from Kreuther’s childhood in the Alsace region of France, where he grew up surrounded by food and cooking.
“In the summer, my mother kept hundreds of tomato plants,” he writes. “I’d walk up and down the rows, picking the ripe fruit and eating the juiciest ones, hot from the sun, like apples along the way. The smell of those vines and the flavour of those tomatoes are engraved in me.”
Alsace onion tart
For the dough
- 2 cups 250 g all-purpose flour
- 1 stick + 1 tbsp 130 g cold butter, diced
- 75 ml cold water
For the filling
- 3 ½ to 4 lbs 1.75 kg onions
- 4 oz 125 g applewood-smoked slab bacon, cut into thin strips
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup 240 ml heavy (double) cream
- 200 ml milk
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 50 grinds pepper or to taste
- 30 gratings nutmeg or to taste
- 3 oz 100 g grated Gruyère (or enough to sprinkle liberally over the tart)
To make the dough
- Blend together the flour, butter, and salt in a mixing bowl with your fingertips just until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized lumps.
- Add most of the 1/3 cup (75 ml) of water and mix until the dough comes together, adding more water as needed.
- Work the dough until it is smooth and not sticky.
- Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling
- Put about threequarters of the onions in a steamer for 1 hour or until completely tender; you can also wrap them in foil and roast them at 350°F (175°C) for the same time, or until tender.
- Purée them in a blender until they’re completely smooth.
- With the other onions, halve each one lengthwise. Take one half and put it on your cutting board. Make a slice through the middle just to the core so that it stays together and your slices are short. Slice the onion as thinly as possible, starting at the top and moving down to the core. Repeat with the remaining onions. This can be done on a mandoline as well. Put the sliced onions into a bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, and toss to distribute the salt.
- Preheat your oven to 325°F (175°C, Gas Mark 4).
- When the dough has rested, roll it out and line an 11 or 12 in (28 or 30.5 cm) tart pan with it. Poke holes in the bottom with a fork. Fill the tart with beans on parchment or foil, or use pie weights to hold the dough down, and blind bake it for 20 minutes.
- Sauté the bacon over medium heat until cooked, lightly coloured but not crispy. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the bacon pieces to cool in the pan.
- Raise oven temperature to 375°F (190°C, Gas Mark 5).
- Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the cream, milk, onion purée, sliced onion, 1 tablespoon salt, the parsley, and the pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Pour the onion mixture into the tart shell. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Sprinkle the bacon evenly over the top (feel free to drizzle any rendered bacon fat over the tart as well) and bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until just set (it should jiggle but not appear liquidy). Allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving warm, or allow it to cool completely to serve at room temperature. This will keep well wrapped in the fridge for several days.
Extracted from The Spirit of Alsace: A Cookbook by Gabriel Kreuther (Abrams & Chronicle, 2021) Photography © Evan Sung
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