Some weeks I head to the grocery store with a solid plan of what I want to make. I have a detailed list and a mission. I walk in, get what I need, and leave. And then there are those weeks when I have no idea what I want, and I cross through the sliding glass doors feeling completely purposeless. I spend more time than I’d like aimlessly meander through the aisles looking for inspiration, hoping that something spectacular will jump out and grab me. Last week was just such a week. After wandering the store for 20 minutes, I found myself in the produce department standing in front of a bin of root vegetables, and that’s when I spotted the most gorgeous tricolored pearl onions I’ve ever seen! I had to have them. I bought a pound, brought them home, and then stared at them for an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out how I’d put them to use. These little beauties deserved to take center stage, so I had to think up a recipe that would allow them to shine. Then it dawned on me: what goes better with onions than bread and cheese? Nothing. (Actually, there are probably a lot of things, but I was craving bread and cheese at the moment.) So threw the onions into a skillet to caramelize, whipped up a quick batch pizza dough, and tossed the whole thing into the oven with a handful of cheese, and before I knew it, I was chowing down on a big, fat, savory slice flatbread.
Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Flatbread
Makes 1 flatbread (8 pieces)
For the Flatbread Dough
- ½ cups warm water (100-105°F)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 package dry active yeast
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- cornmeal for the pan
For the Topping
- ½ lb. pearl onions
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 cup gruyère cheese, grated
To make the flatbread dough, combine water and sugar in a small bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle yeast over the surface of the water (do not stir) and allow to sit until yeast becomes foamy, about 3-5 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add flour, salt, and olive oil and mix to combine. Add water to flour mixture and turn the machine on to low. Continue mixing on low speed until dough is soft and pliable, about 10 minutes. If the dough is sticking to the bowl, add a tsp of flour until it easily pulls away from the sides.
Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Alternatively you could use store-bought pizza dough, but this is really simple to make and will taste much better.)
To make the topping, you will first need to peel the pearl onions. Now, this can be quite a chore if you’re doing it by hand because you’re going to have close to fifty of these little guys. But have no fear, there is a much quicker and easier way to peel the onions than removing layer after layer of paper thin skin. Ready? Okay, first cut off the tip of each onion opposite the root ends.
Drop onions in boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, then drain onions in a colander set in the sink and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Once the onions are cool enough to handle, hold the onion by the root end and squeeze gently until the onion pops out of its skin.
Gently pull the skin off, leaving the root end intact.
To caramelize the onions, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet set to low heat. Cook onions, garlic, thyme, and salt & pepper until the onions are soft and sweet, about 45 minutes. You’ll want to stir the pot occasionally to make sure that the onions aren’t getting too brown. If they start to look too brown, add 1 Tbsp of water to the skillet.
To assemble the flatbread, preheat an oven to 450°F. Sprinkle a small handful of cornmeal over a large baking sheet, set aside.
Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and knead 3-4 times, then form dough into a ball.
With a rolling pin, roll flat, pulling and stretching the sides as you go to create a rectangle. Place dough in the center of the baking sheet. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Dip a pastry brush into the onion skillet to soak up some of the melted oil and butter. Brush oil/butter over the dough all the way to the edges. Continue until the entire surface of the dough is covered.
Sprinkle grated gruyère over the dough, stopping 1-inch before the edge all the way around. Arranged onions over cheese, dispersing evenly. If there are any browned bits of garlic and thyme left in the bottom of the skillet, sprinkle them evenly over the onions and cheese.
Place baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the flatbread is golden brown. Allow to rest for 1-2 minutes before cutting into 8 equal slices.
Sidekick: Serve flatbread with a glass of white Burgundy, Gewürztraminer, or Riesling. Flatbread is great as an appetizer or serves as an excellent accompaniment to the Artichoke Stuffed Chicken I posted earlier this week, or the Rosemary & Garlic Brined Pork Chops that I posted a couple weeks ago.