29 April 2009
In a world where chefs like to throw pans and shout obscenities, Michel Richard is a fun-loving guy. He reminds me of Santa! I wish he had a show on television because he loves food in that infectious way that draws everybody in. I have been lucky enough to eat at his restaurant, Central, on numerous visits to Washington, D.C.
It is terrible cliché to say that a chef is innovative, but Richard is indeed a master at innovation. His “Scallop Asparagus Lollipops” are fanciful. He admits to buying a lovely piece of rex sole and, not wanting to mess around, shoving it in the toaster over to make a sandwich. Every time he sees food, he thinks about how he can use it in a new way. Once he took a bite of the instant Cream of Wheat his wife made for the children and turned it into a “Summer Tomato Tart with Basil Crust.”
Here is a great little appetizer that resembles a Provencal pissaladiere.
Onion And Olive Tartlets
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium (1 to 1 1/4 pound) red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 8-ounce frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted 20 minutes at room temperature
8 Nicoise or other black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped.
For the onions, heat the olive oil in a heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover and cook until very tender, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (This can be prepared ahead, cooled, covered and set aside at cool room temperature.)
For the pastry, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface into a 13 X 13-inch square. Cut out 4 6-inch circles using a sharp floured fluted cutter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before baking
To serve, preheat the oven in 400 f. Discard the plastic wrap. Prick the pastry with a fork. Mound the onions in the center of each circle of pastry to within 1/2 inch from the edge. Bake until the pastry is well browned for 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to 4 serving plates. Sprinkle with olives on top of the onions. Serve immediately.