Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not quite sure what to call this...


Well, this is a momentous occasion indeed... the first recipe to be posted on the new blog. Heady stuff! This is an hors d'oeuvre that I improvised a couple years ago for a Thanksgiving dinner, to very positive reviews. I've made it a few times since, and it always goes over well. You could probably call this a goat cheese balsamic pear phyllo tart, that's about the best name I've come up with. Think of it as a riff on baklava. Or spanakopita. And of course, I don't have a photo of it, and as I hate posting without a photo, I've dug up this shot of archetypal nerd extraordinaire Steve Urkel from the 90's mega-hit sitcom "Family Matters" as a stand-in.

Hardware:

-One 9X13 baking dish
-One pastry brush
-One of those pancake flipper things (I grew up calling it a spatula; it is in fact not a spatula, but rather a pancake flipper thing)

Software:

-Phyllo dough, one 1 lb package, thawed (It's very important that it be completely thawed. I can't stress this enough)
-Unsalted butter, one stick (Not a bad idea to have more handy)
-Three pears (Bosc will probably work best here), peeled, cored and sliced
-Balsamic vinegar, one cup
-Water, one cup
-Goat cheese, ten ounces or so
-Two large yellow onions
-Salt, one Tbsp
-Chopped walnuts, one cup

First, you're going to want to caramelize the onions. I usually julienne them (or something like it anyway) into 3 inch pieces. You could french the onions, if you're a bad-ass, or just slice them up however you like, but don't chop or dice them; you don't want particularly small pieces here. Throw the onions into a large saute or frying pan with a liberal dose of olive oil, butter, or a combination thereof, sprinkle them with the salt, and cook over medium heat until they start to get a little color. Turn the heat down to medium low and stir or toss frequently until they've turned a light caramelly brown. This will take a while, perhaps up to an hour, but the aroma produced is worth the wait.

While the onions are doing their thing, put the vinegar and water into a good sized sauce pan, bring it to a simmer and add the pears. You don't want them to cook for too long, just long enough for them to take on some of the flavor of the vinegar, maybe ten minutes. Strain and pat dry.

Next, grease up that baking dish and melt the butter. Phyllo dough usually comes rolled into two half-pound sub-packages. You'll probably only use one, but have the other handy just in case. Unroll the phyllo and lay it flat on your counter. Trim it, if necessary, to fit the baking dish. Lay a slightly damp towel over the dough while it sits, as it will dry out and become difficult to work very quickly. Once the onions are finished caramelizing and off the heat, layer 12 to 15 sheets of the phyllo into the baking dish, brushing melted butter onto every second or third sheet. Spread the onions over the top. Layer ten more sheets of phyllo on top of the onions, again having brushed every second or third sheet with the butter. Arrange the pear slices in a thin layer and add ten more sheets of phyllo (again with the butter). Crumble the goat cheese over all of this (or soften it in the microwave and spread it evenly) and add the last ten sheets of buttered phyllo. You'll want to score the top 3 or 4 sheets. I usually make three cuts lengthwise, then I make 45 degree cuts every 2 inches or so from the center cut out to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top.

Place into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes. When done, the top layer of phyllo will be golden but not quite verging on burned, and the walnuts will have a nice toasted appearance. Let it cool, and slice along the scores into that classic trapezoidal baklava shape. Dig one or two pieces out with your knife and let the pancake flipper thing do the rest of the work.

And enjoy! Send any leftovers to your cardiologist.

2 comments:

Trisha said...

Tommy,

I think you should call it GPP~ goat, pear, phyllo~ then when making it you can say, "Are you down with GPP?" and the intended diners can respond, "Yeah, you know me." Not only will this cause kitchen zaniness to ensue but it will increase your street cred exponentially.

tommy said...

That is an excellent idea. One can never have too much zaniness or cred! GPP it is, then.