Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ham and Cheese, Don't Hold the Onions

It wasn’t until I started writing up this post (or was staring at the computer deciding what to write), that I realized that the Ham and Onion Pie with Rye Crust I made recently is really just a ham and cheese on rye in fancy dress. That is if you consider a load of caramelized onions fancy dress. When it comes to food, I certainly do.

Since spring seems to be dragging its heels, determined to arrive late this year, I’ve been hitting some season-independent recipes. For this one, I began with a clipping from Cooking Light magazine, but by the time I got done making notes and revisions it was just as messy as my apron. I kept the basic procedure and the Jarlsberg cheese, but I stirred the cheese into the onions rather than layering it into the pie (fancy dress.) I slipped a Rye Pie Crust under the filling, replaced the store-bought stuffing mix with homemade rye bread cubes and the Canadian bacon with ham, and cooked the caramelized onions in chicken broth. I also adjusted the seasonings to include caraway seeds.

So there’s a crust with rye on the bottom and a rye crumb topping with ham and Jarlsberg cheese in the middle. There’s even Dijon mustard. If this was a sandwich, it would be just fine. If, however, the person serving me this sandwich asked if I wanted it with onions, of course I’d have to say yes. Caramelized onions, please. Sweet and jammy caramelized onions.

This recipe is significantly more involved than a ham and cheese sandwich, but I like to spend time in the kitchen, making a big mess, and I hope you do too. The blind baked crust, which I described in the previous post and the caramelized onions take the most effort. There aren’t any tricky juggling maneuvers to manage, however, so you can give each part of the pie your full attention. In fact, you won’t even have to pay that much attention to the onions. Just cook them over medium low heat with some added chicken broth (not technically standard procedure for caramelized onions, but quite delicious in this pie), stirring occasionally and adding more broth to keep them from scorching or getting stuck to the pan.

Once the onions are done and have cooled a bit, just stir in the ham and cheese, plus some seasoning and mustard, plop it into the baked rye crust, top it with the bread cube topping, which is kind of like a Thanksgiving stuffing, and bake it. The end product is a rich and savory golden brown pie that takes the ham and cheese sandwich into the formal dining room. The flavors complement each other in such an earthy satisfying way, you won’t mind that spring refuses to arrive. (Disclaimer: yes you will mind. Just let the author savor her delusions along with her pie.)

Ham and Onion Tart with Rye Crust
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

1 recipe Rye Pie Crust (or other single crust pastry) rolled out and fitted into a 9-inch pie pan

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
4 cups thinly-sliced yellow onion
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups rye bread in ½ -inch cubes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or crumbled dried sage leaves
½ teaspoon pepper, divided
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, coarsely crushed with the flat of a knife or mortar and pestle
½ cup diced fully-cooked ham
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Jarlsberg cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line the pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with your choice of pie weights (ceramic or metal weights, dry beans, etc.) Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.

2. Remove the foil and pie weights from the crust. Brush the crust with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Bake for 5-8 minutes at 375 F or until the crust becomes lightly browned and dry rather than raw and doughy. Set aside on a wire cooling rack.

3. While baking the crust, prepare the caramelized onions. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook the onions about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be beginning to brown.

4. Add ½ cup chicken broth. Continue to cook the onions about 25 minutes more. Add about ½ cup more of the remaining broth a little at a time as the mixture gets dry and sticky. When the onions are done, they should be very brown and soft, almost jammy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir the onion mixture occasionally to facilitate cooling.

5. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread cubes and cook until just beginning to turn brown and toasted, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Add the remaining ½ cup broth, and the sage, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until the broth is nearly absorbed, stirring gently to avoid breaking up the bread cubes too much. Remove from the heat and set aside.

7. When the onions have cooled slightly (they should at least no longer be steaming), stir into them the remaining 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, caraway seeds and ham. Stir in the Jarlsberg cheese.

8. Transfer the onion mixture to the baked pie shell, spreading evenly. Top the onion mixture with the bread cube mixture, spreading evenly.

9. Bake the pie at 375 F for 25 minutes. The bread cube topping should be browned. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Makes about 6 servings. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator, but the crisp texture of the crust will not be maintained upon reheating in the microwave.

Other recipes like this one: Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon, Chard Tart with Feta Cheese and Olives, Winter Vegetable Galettes with Cheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions

One year ago: Rhubarb Sour Cream Muffins

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