Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Onion and Bacon Tart

I can no longer remember when or at which restaurant I had an onion tart, but it was divine and I was inspired to make one at home.  I regularly serve quiches and frittatas at brunch, and I was excited about adding another entree to my repertoire.  Around the same time, I had my first BLT which was made with fakon (vegetarian bacon).  This was a new and interesting experience.

These two gastronomic adventures (and some additional research about onion tarts), led me into new culinary territory.  As someone who grew up not eating pork for religious reasons, bacon seemed like an easy item to do without.  However, my encounter with fakon and widespread bacon mania in the United States caused me to expand my horizon.  I was so intrigued by this new ingredient that I decided to try it in this onion tart.

Traditional bacon is cured in brine or dry packed with large amounts of salt; this process often includes additional curing ingredients to accelerate the process and stabilize the meat color.  It is then dried or smoked and must be cooked before consumption.  American bacon is usually prepared from pork belly; in other parts of the world it is made from side or back cuts of pork.  Bacon may also be prepared from other meats including turkey, chicken, goat, cow, or lamb.

Bacon was made in China as early as 1500 BC.  It was also popular with the Greeks and Romans.  The word comes from the Old High German bacho meaning buttock.  The word found its way into Old French as bacun as early as the 14th century.  By the 16th century it was bacoun in Middle English and referred to all cured pork (not just what we know today as bacon).

While I was not ready to experiment with pork bacon, I had been somewhat underwhelmed by fakon.  I decided to compromise with turkey bacon.  This product is made from smoked, chopped, and reconstituted turkey thighs.  It has a lower fat content and a higher sodium content than pork bacon.  It looks and smells like bacon and can be prepared by pan-frying.  Because of the lower fat content it does not crisp up in the same way as the pork version.  Bacon aficionados maintain that it does not taste like pork bacon, but for the uninitiated, it was a reasonable substitute and a flavorful addition to this tart.


4 to 6 ounces pork bacon, turkey bacon, or fakon
1 to 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
20 ounces yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 1 red pepper, diced
6 ounces sliced button mushrooms
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 cup sour cream (light sour cream may be substituted)
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 1/2 cups Monterrey or Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 to 2 teaspoons red chilli flakes (optional)
1 pie crust (homemade or store bought) (optional)

1.       Preheat oven to 375F.
2.       In a medium saucepan, cook bacon until crispy.  For turkey bacon use low heat to prevent bacon from burning.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside to cool.  Dice bacon.
3.       In a large saucepan on medium high heat, sauté onions in butter or olive oil.  After 10 minutes, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Continue to sauté until onions turn lightly brown.  Set aside to cool.
4.       In the medium saucepan used for bacon, sauté red pepper and mushrooms in bacon grease on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
5.       To the saucepan with carmelized onions, add bacon, red peppers and mushrooms.  Mix well.
6.       Then add eggs, evaporated milk, sour cream, soup mix, cheese, salt, pepper and chilli flakes.  Mix well.
7.       Pour into pie crust or directly into pie dish.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10-15 minutes.
8.       Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.