It’s officially football season! And that means I now have to set aside my Sundays for eating and beer-drinking with my family. Not that I’m complaining. I happen to love football, and its start also means I have a justified reason to make a mess of the kitchen in my attempt to create new game day recipes. Now, I myself felt like a bit of a loser serving “tarts” during a football game. Honestly, who does that? Isn’t the nature of tailgating to be messy and eat artery-clogging, barbecue-sauced foods? Add to the equation my vegetarianism and I am immediately benched.
Nevertheless, what overzealous carnivorous tailgaters don’t know won’t hurt them, so I bring you a new family favorite for game day (or any day!)
Caramelized Onion Apple Tarts with Jalapeno Maple Glaze
This recipe was inspired by two things: Trader Joe’s and the New England Patriots (my favorite football team and sports team of all time, even with their last two Super Bowl appearances).
If you’re like me, and have spent way too much of your life ogling the deliciousness that sits on the shelves of Trader Joe’s, you’ve likely come across these: Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese and Caramelized Onions
(Photo credit: http://www.cooktj.com/trader-joes-products/pastry-bites-feta-cheese-caramelized-onion)
In other words: cheese-covered happiness in a box…with a side of creamy sweet guilt. I know, they’re delicious. I know they’re so freakishly convenient when you’re in a party-snack pinch. But the last time I made them, I ate the entire box. And yes, that was after reading the Ingredient and Nutrition Label: http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/trader-joes/feta-cheese-and-caramelized-onions-puff-pastry-bites
Like I said: creamy sweet guilt. These scrumptious treats were all cheese (and I don’t even know if it was feta, it tasted more like cream cheese), topped with a single caramelized onion sliver. I was so disappointed. I really wanted to re-do this recipe, find a way to create what I was hoping these pastry bites would taste like, but without feeling like a cheese-filled blob afterwards. Which brings me to my second point of inspiration…
The New England Patriots…New England is perhaps the most beautiful place in the world during the fall. Everything people imagine when they hear the word “fall” exists here. Pumpkins, piles or crunchy red and yellow leaves, crisp cool air, and of course it’s the site of the first Thanksgiving. But three other things stood out to me more and made their way into these tailgating tarts: cheddar cheese, apples and maple syrup. It sounds crazy to add apples to onions. But maple syrup (PURE, real, New England syrup), caramelized onions and apples have the advantage of being sweet without containing artificial sugar. And while I would not even try to argue that cheese is a New England speciality (I’ll leave that to the Cheese-head Packers’ fans), Vermont has been known to crank out a decent cheddar.
So far, I thought I had struck a good compromise from the Trader Joe’s pastry bites. But I felt as if now this would be too sweet. So I added sweet’s natural partner in crime…heat.
I absolutely love jalapenos, despite the numerous times they’ve squirted their burning juices into my eyes, or made me drink my weight in milk to ease the fire raging in my mouth after eating them raw (I’m not always very bright). But they make up for all these sneaky assaults by being delicious, especially when you add a little sweetness to balance their smoky heat.
1/2 loaf fresh Italian bakery bread, sliced
2 medium apples, peeled and shredded
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Butter or Canola Oil (optional)
Salt to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 400F degrees
2. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over high heat
3. Peel your onions and cut them into slices (about as wide as a pencil). Cutting them too thin will cause them to burn, not caramelize. If you’re unsure, lean towards the thicker slide. If they’re too big you can always chop them when they’re done caramelizing.
5. Once the onions are done, use a rolling pin to flatten your Italian bread slices. Roll them as if you were rolling out cookie cutter dough, but much thinner. You want them to be pretty thin, but if they start to break or tear at the holes then stop.
6. Lightly grease a muffin tin with nonstick spray.Cut the larger slices in half, and form into cups to fit inside a muffin tins. It won’t be perfect. Feel free to press them into shape with a little water if the bread is too dry to shape. If you want them to be a little richer, brush them with melted butter or canola oil.
7. Toast the cups in the oven for about 2-5 minutes, until crispy.
8. In a bowl, combine the finely chopped jalapeno, maple syrup, black pepper, paprika and salt.
9. Peel two large apples (I used Gala, but any type will do), and shred them using a large-grain cheese grater. If you don’t have a cheese grater, you can use a peeler, it just takes a lot longer. Add the apple shred to the maple-jalapeno mixture.
10. Add the shredded cheese to mixture.
11. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each of the toasted bread cups. The maple syrup and the apple will make the mixture wet but will cook off.
12. Bake for about 10 minutes. If the crust starts to burn before the filling melts, drizzle the edges with canola oil.
Happy football season! Let’s Go, Patriots!