Wading my way through a bed of roasted red peppers and caramelized onions is a taste expedition I would courageously undertake with anticipation of a sweet trip! Will you join me? Particularly, if the bed is made of airy, buttery- crisp puff pastry? The following recipe is is an easy take on a dish from Provence, usually made with a heavier, more time consuming short pastry. This version, using pre-made puff pastry, is faster and lighter and with the addition of red pepper, and artichoke hearts, sweeter and smokier. I would never presume to improve upon the original but this is another version that may be less intimidating to some; that is unless you've never worked with puff pastry - "pâte feuilletée" (leaves of pastry). According to those that know, this French pastry used for making incredible desserts , should be composed of 78 layers of flour and butter, which may prove intimidating to most.
I have studied how to make puff pastry, and I have made it on occasion but I would only recommend doing so when you have several spare hours, derive great pleasure from doing it yourself, or relish being able to say, "I made it myself!" I almost exclusively purchase the pre-turned frozen pastry. However, when I recently discovered a pastry from the Brittany region of France, "Kouing Amann", I wanted to delve into making that delicious confection by rolling up my sleeves, putting on a good movie in the background and started at the very beginning. It is an experience worth the effort and if nothing else, makes you grateful for the advent of industrial machinery. You should make puff pastry on a dry cool day - not on a muggy, warm day as I originally did. But until that day arrives, venture to the freezer section of your grocery store, lovingly select a frozen package of Puff Pastry sheets, take it home and place it in your freezer until ready to use. If you follow the steps below, you should be successful and this delicate pastry can be your friend for composing dishes such as Bouchee a la Reine (Chicken A la King), Napoleans and palmiers.
Tips for Working with frozen Puff Pastry Sheets:
1 - Remove each sheet from it's wrapping and place it on the counter for about 10 minutes.
2 - Gently, with careful coaxing, unfold the tri-folded sheet and stand it up on the counter in a tent shape for an additional 15 minutes, to thaw.
3- While the dough is still chilled but somewhat malleable roll it out to a slightly larger rectangle, sealing the seams closed with the rolling pin as you go.
4 - Place the dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
5- Do not roll any leftover dough into a ball but keep it flat, or you destroy the butter - pastry layers created in the dough and it will not puff up when you bake.
6 - Return the prepared pastry to the freezer for about 20 minutes before baking to allow the pastry to become cold again, thus keeping the butter solid so that more layers will form and puff during baking.
Red Pepper and Caramalzied Onion Pisaladiere
2 sheets frozen puff pastry sheets
1 package Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs,
2 large sliced onions, slivered
2 tab. olive oil
1/2 cup sliced roasted red peppers
(from a jar or prepared yourself)
1/2 cup roughly chopped, canned or frozen artichoke hearts
1/4 cup roughly chopped Kalamata or Nicoise olives
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
-In large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and toss with 1/2 tsp. salt for about 5 minutes to begin the caramelizing process. Reduce the heat to low and slowly caramelize the onions for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool.
-Follow the directions for using the puff pastry above. Place one rolled out sheet on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll out the other pastry sheet and cut 4 - 1 inch wide strips down the length of the pastry. Brush a bit of water along each edge of the original sheet and lay a 1" strip along each edge, overlapping and trimming strips to fit, to create a raised border around the edge of the pialadier. Preheat the oven to 380 degrees. Chill the pastry in freezer while the oven is preheating. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the pastry is puffy and golden brown. Allow to cool about 15 minutes.
-Gently spread Boursin cheese over the cooked pastry. Distribute onions, red peppers and artichoke hearts evenly over the cheese layer, then scatter olives and parmesan cheese over the top. Return to 375 degree oven and heat for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
Cook's Notes: Although you could use creme fraiche or mascarpone cheese to spread on the pastry, I chose Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs. Easy on the olives - the bold taste of the Kalamata olives can demand your attention so insistently that the silky, subtle flavors of the onion are overwhelmed. But a little briny pop creates a nice contrast.