Dinner Party: Recipes for French Onion Soup, Homemade Crackers, and Tarte Noire

Last night we had our friends Anna and Chris over for dinner.  They are a fun couple to entertain for because a) they are great people b) they are totally foodies, so it is fun coming up with a meal that I think they will enjoy.

Before we get to recipes, Anna made Lucy this beautiful giraffe.  This is Lucy looking him over this morning.  The giraffe is really going to be fun for her.  It is so cute, I think I am going to keep it in our living room instead of her room.  Plus, to be honest, once you have a baby, your living room kinda becomes a giant play room.

Now to the food, we started our meal with a cheese and sausage plate.  I got a nice assortment of cheeses that I like: brie, manchego, jarlsberg, and a blue.  We also picked up two artisan salamis made with wine at Trader Joe’s.  We had that with some French bread and these crackers I made.  This recipes is adapted from one in the America’s Test Kitchen Baking book.

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 T. olive oil

1/2 T. honey

1/4 t.  instant yeast

1/4 t. kosher salt

1/4 c. warm water

Put all the ingredients, except the water in a standing mixer fixed with the dough hook attachment.  With the mixer on low, pour the water slowly into the mixture.  Keep mixing until the dough becomes a ball.

Left: Dough before the water

Right: Dough after water was added and mixed

Let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.  Because I live in a perpetually freezing house, I usually let my dough rise longer than a recipe says.

Once the dough has risen, roll out and place on a baking sheet.  Put a clean towel over it and let rise for another 10-20 minutes.  Once the dough has sat, brush on some olive oil and toppings of your choice.  I sprinkled mine with pepper, kosher salt, and a little parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Watch it closely at the end.  At 20 minutes my cracker was still a little pale, and the next time I checked it, it was a little darker than I wanted, though it still tasted fine.  Sorry I didn’t snap a picture when it came out of the oven, I forgot and now the crackers are gone.  Once the giant cracker has cooled, break into pieces and serve.

French Onion Soup:

My next recipe comes from the master of all French cooking, the great Julia Child.  This recipe comes from her classic 1961 cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The recipe is actually quite simple, though it takes a bit of time to make, about an hour and a half to two hours.

1/2 pound (or about 5 cups) onions sliced very thin

3 T. Butter

1 T. Oil

Cook the onion with the butter and oil over low heat with the cover on for 15 minutes.  It is important to have a nice heavy pan for this.  I used my Le Creuset, which works perfect.  Note, if you do not want to invest in such an expensive pan, there are other cheaper brands that I have heard work quite well.  Although I have not used it, the Lodge brand, which price about $50 gets good reviews.  Sometimes you can find Le Creuset and other less expensive brands at Marshall’s or TJ Max at a good deal too.  I do think that a large cast iron pot is essential for cooking.  I have two and I use them all the time–I do not think I could possibly be without them to be honest.

1 t. salt

1/4 sugar

Once the onions have cooked for 15 minutes, remove the cover and add the salt and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes.  I did mine for 40.  Once they are done they will look nice and brown, and they will smell just fabulous.

3 T. flour

Add in the flour and stir constantly over heat for three minutes.

2 quarts brown stock (It is important to use stock and not broth.  Broth is much to salty and strong for this recipe)

1/2 cup white wine (a dry wine–nothing too sweet)

salt and pepper to taste

Add the liquid and bring to a boil.  Drop the heat down and let the soup simmer for another 30-40 minutes.

The soup is done at this point.  To garnish, put soup into oven-proof bowls.  The only ones I have are fiesta wear bowls, which worked well.  Put a piece of french bread into each bowl and cover with shredded Swiss cheese.  Pop into the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.  Serve immediately.


Anna and Chris brought a wine that paired amazingly well with the French Onion soup.  Here is a picture of the label; I highly recommend it.

Tarte Noire:

I was awfully excited to make this dessert.  My mom recently bought me a tart pan in exchange for a promise of future desserts.  I looked through my Dorie Greenspan baking book looking for the perfect tart to try for my first tart.  So many looked wonderful, but I finally decided on a simple French classic–the Tarte Noire.  You make this recipe in two steps, first the shell then the filling.  You need a number of hours to complete the recipe, so make it ahead of time.  This recipe is for a 9 inch tart pan.

Sweet Tart Dough (the shell which is essentially a shortbread)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 t. salt

1 stick plus 1T. unsalted butter very cold or frozen cut into peices

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.  Stir up the egg yolk and drop in little by little, pulsing for about 10 seconds after each drop.  Once the dough is starting to come together, pour out on a smooth surface and knead a little bit.  Press into the buttered tart pan (I use Baker’s Joy which always works fantastic though it is actually for bundt pans I believe).  When pressing into the pan make sure you don’t loose the crumbly texture of the dough.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cover the tart with tin foil. The book says you do not need to use pie weights because the dough has been frozen.  I decided to use them anyway.  If you do not have actual pie weights, dry beans work just fine, though sometimes it makes the house smell a little like cooked dry beans.   Bake the crust for 25 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and pie weights and cook for another 8 minutes.  Transfer the shell to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Note: This crust can be used for just about any sweet tart.

The filling:

8 ounces bittersweet chocoate, finely chopped (make sure this is good quality chocolate and not something like Roundy’s brand chocolate chips [although just fine for cookies].  You will really taste the quality of the chocolate in this recipe).

1 c. plus 1 T heavy cream

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof glass bowl

Bring the cream to a boil and pour half over the chopped chocolate.  Stir in small circles in the middle of the bowl working outward until all the chocolate is melted and mixed with the cream.  Add the rest of the cream and mix in the same manner until all is combined.  Stir in the butter pieces one by one until incorporated.  The less you stir, the darker and creamier your mixture (a ganache) will be.

Pour the mixed filling into the tart shell, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.  Remove after the 30 minutes and let sit a room temperature until you are ready to serve the tart.

Here are a couple of picture of the finished product:

It is as easy as that, and in case you are wondering the tart is on a plastic parrot plate in the top picture–very classy.

Advertisements