You'll notice I didn't use the famous Bachman-Turner Overdrive option on the song choice today. That one will do if you're insistent on the matter. I have nothing against it. I rocked out to it as a teen like everybody else. But then one day my second oldest brother was playing an album and he yells for me to come listen to this one song. He asks if I recognize the voice. I do, but I don't. My mind is screaming the answer at me but I can't make it out! He finally tells me that Burton Cummings of The Guess Who released a solo album and it included a cover of BTO's song, written by former Guess Who bandmate, Randy Bachman. A-ha! Cummings' bluesy-lounge take on You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet had me wide-eyed and rolling on the floor! Was it meant to be funny? I don't know. But it remains today as my favorite rendition of the song - mostly because it wholly embodies the message the song conveys - just when you think you know what's coming, well, you ain't seen nothing yet. And that describes working with puff pastry perfectly!
I enjoyed Science class well enough growing up. Barring a minor incident as lab assistant in Mr. Miller's class in junior high, I did quite well! Mr. Miller never let me forget my faux pas, shaking his head at me every time he saw me forever after. That's OK. He thought his kids were "cuter than a button." A button. I cherish the day my classmate, Jane, responded to his daily "button" comparison with a shrug of her shoulders, a roll of the eyes, and the dry comeback, "If you think buttons are cute." Bazinga!
Although I always did well in Science I really struggled in Physics. Mr. Angove tried so hard, providing one-to-one study sessions, gesticulating wildly with his hands, saying, "But it's the simple laws of nature!" He was so passionate about the subject it made me feel bad that I wasn't "getting it." I guess I understood chemical reactions but I chose to leave some aspects or laws of our physical world a mystery and call it magical. Bless his heart, though, because he never shook his head at me. Ever. He had faith that one day I'd "get it." And I have - to some degree.
A big part of cooking involves both chemistry and physics. Have you ever thought of dinner as a science project? Try it! You could have fun with your kids trying to pick out everything that's going on in that kitchen/lab of yours!
I'm giving you a recipe today that allows for some great scientific fun. Puff pastry is a delight to work with. It adds elegance and sophistication to the most humblest of ingredients. The most important thing to remember when working with puff pastry is to keep it cold. If it gets too warm you're not going to get the best results as you're robbing it of it's big chemical reaction. The pastry starts out relatively flat, hiding lots of thin layers of cold, cold butter. There's no yeast here. It's magic happens as it bakes when those layers of butter hit the high heat, start to melt, giving off steam which pushes the layers up, up, up! Think of getting hit with a sudden shock of hot or cold water. If the pastry is too warm it's just not that big of a shock when it hits the hot oven. Keep it cold!
As you pile on the ingredients you'll be thinking, "Hey, this is kind of high for this little square!" No worries. That dough is going to puff up high and form a nest right around it saying, "You ain't seen NOTHIN' yet, b-b-b-baby!" Sweet pears, tangy cheese, earthy mushrooms, savory nuts and onions. Delicious!
Caramelized Onion Tarts with Pears and Gorgonzola
Makes 4 tarts
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 red Bartlett pear, cored and sliced thin
1 sm. container Gorgonzola cheese
1 container Boursin Lite Garlic & Herb cheese spread
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 package of puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator according to package directions
Caramelize the onions in the olive oil and butter. Add the salt and pepper. Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes to where they're browned on the edges. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the leaves from three of the sprigs of fresh thyme. Set aside.
Lightly flour your working surface and carefully unfold your puff pastry and place on work surface. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll over the pastry to coax it into a square that's about 12x12. Use a sharp knife and divide the dough into 4 equal squares. Slightly separate the squares.
Use the tip of the knife and cut inside the border of each square about 1/2 inch, cutting clear through two of the corners and leaving the other two opposite corners attached.
Notice that the top left and bottom right corners are not completely cut through. These corners act as "hinges" when folding the dough.
Brush the edges of the inside square with an egg wash.
Take the right flap and fold it across the square, bringing it to rest on the left side of the inside square.
Now take the left flap and fold it across the square, bringing it to rest on the right side of the inside square.
Repeat for remaining squares. You have now made "baskets" for your goodies.
Place pastry baskets on parchment lined sheet trays and begins assembling the ingredients.
Start with spreading 1 T. of the Boursin cheese spread in the bottom of each basket and then top with enough caramelized onions to cover the open space.
Add a few mushroom slices and about 1 T. of walnuts to each tart.
Top with the sliced pears and a sprinkling of Gorgonzola crumbles.
Brush the outer strips of the pastry with egg wash.
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes, turning the pan halfway through baking. Sprinkle with more Gorgonzola cheese and the leaves of the remaining sprigs of thyme when they come out of the oven.
These are delicious served both hot and cold. They reheat well in the microwave - try 30 second intervals.
Science never looked so good!