The chilled avocado soup didn’t satisfy. We scanned the menu at Pearl in the Grove for another appetizer, this time noticing an onion pie with a crust made from a scone dough. Done. Ordered.
A warm slice of pie came to our table with the slightly caramelized (and slightly sweet) onions and cheese still soft. The golden pie crust was like a piece of one big buttery biscuit.
It was the perfect set up to the salty and juicy young chicken (poussin) I had for dinner, which I’ll have to tell you more about some other time.
One-lane roads lead you down to the Pearl, a small restaurant out in Dade City in the middle of nowhere and farms. Outside on the unpaved parking lot, the sky is brighter with stars I can’t see from my home. The owner comes by your table at some later point in the meal to see how you liked the chicken, the pie, the lamb, the fried green tomatoes, and that little dark chocolate layer birthday cake made just for this table. He told us more about the pie, and how it’s their version of a recipe from Nigella Lawson.
There’s a recipe on Epicurious from the April 2001 issue of Gourmet with a version of Lawson’s onion pie. Gourmet tweaked her recipe for an American audience, using yellow instead of red onions and giving this pie a lighter crust. This led me to my new collection, and I found that I already owned a copy of the recipe I was looking for.
One week after trying this pie, we spent a morning rolling out our own. My first pie. We increased the amount of onions and used white instead of yellow. It is not difficult to put together, and it is made mostly of simple ingredients. Cheese. Butter. Flour. Onions, which only need time and heat (and maybe a little butter) to soften into something so powerfully good the aroma lures you into the kitchen to pick a slippery slice right out of the hot pan.
After 25 minutes in the oven, the scone dough puffed up into a golden brown, crisp crust that looked and tasted surprisingly perfect. Don’t hesitate on flipping the pie, though running a knife around the edges is a good idea. A few minutes to let the pie cool is all you need, and was about as long as I could wait for my slice. Those soft onions and cheese ease the pie right out of the pan with just an onion or two staying behind.
Eat it warm. Serve it to friends. And yes, feel like a domestic goddess.
savory onion pie
Eat this one not long after pulling it from the oven. The pie is best warm and with the scone dough still fresh.
for the onion filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 or 2 large white onions (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), each cut lengthwise into 12 wedges and layers separated
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a couple sprigs for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces (3/4 cup) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
for the scone crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (1/2 cup) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
3/4 teaspoon dry (ground) mustard
Heat oven to 400°F.
Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Take skillet off the heat. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Let cool.
Mix cheese with onion. Spread into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch glass pie plate.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Add cheese and pulse a few times t combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Whisk buttermilk and dry mustard together in a small bowl before adding to the dough mixture, then pulse until liquid is mixed in and dough starts to clump. Don’t let it form into a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, folding the dough over on itself a few times to lightly knead. Roll the dough into a ball. Cover the dough loosely in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Flatten out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, using a rolling pin to form the dough into a 10-inch round. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, and flip the dough onto the onion in the pie plate. Peel off last layer of plastic wrap and use your fingers to tuck in dough around the side of the pie.
Bake pie in the middle of the oven until crust is golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool pie on a rack or pot holder for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pie to loosen, then place a plate over the pie and flip the pie onto the plate. Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with a few sprigs fresh thyme. Serve warm.
Recipe dapted from Gourmet and “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson.