Vermouth was one of the spirits I learned to avoid as a teenager sneaking hooch out of my dad’s liquor cabinet. The floral-infused sweet flavor did not appeal. A fortified wine (a wine in which a distilled spirit, such as brandy, is added) infused with botanicals, vermouth is offered in a range of flavors, from subtle to obtusely herbaceous and sweet.
Like wine, sweet or dry vermouth adds flavor to dishes, introducing bitter or honeyed qualities alongside floral notes and spices that chefs use in both sweet and savory iterations. Somewhat confusing to newcomers, vermouth is typically offered in “sweet” (red) or “dry” (white) and the two should not be used interchangeably in recipes. Sweet vermouth is, as billed, sweeter and likely the less offensive of the two – most will find a sip of sweet vermouth over ice is quite pleasing. White vermouth, however, is more dry and botanical, an acquired taste in the glass.
Traditionally, vermouth was drunk as an aperitif and used as medicinal elixirs. In more recent years, vermouths took center stage as the perfect foil to vodka and gin during the late ‘90s martini craze. History has a way of repeating itself and today, what’s old is new and we’re back to sipping vermouth.
This approachable tart — made with rustic and rough dough that is meant to fall apart — takes its savory onion filling and pairs it with soft, vermouth-soaked raisins piled high in the center. A stinky cheese is a lovely addition, helping to cut through the sweetness of the onion mixture. Feel free to sip the Ransom Spirits dry vermouth alongside.
Rustic Onion Tart
Makes 1 tart, serves 4
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon cold water
½ cup raisins
¼ cup Ransom Spirits dry vermouth
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (4-5 medium-sized) onions, sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
2 ounces soft goat cheese
To make the dough, combine the flours, sugar and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl or a food processor. Add the pieces of butter and work in with your fingers, pinching the flour into the butter until small crumbs, like sand, are formed.
When the butter is well incorporated, add the egg and water, mixing until just coming together. Turn the dough out on a counter and knead gently, three to six times, to combine and push the dough together into a ball. It will be quite crumbly and uneven. Shape into a disc and flatten out. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
While the dough is chilling, put the raisins in a small bowl and add the vermouth. Set aside.
To make the filling, set the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add the onions, thyme and pinch of salt. Cook and stir continuously, until the onions are starting to brown and the pan has gone dry. Once the onions are cooked through and browned, add the raisins, along with their liquid. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. The onions can be syrupy but should not be watery. Once the mixture is thick and jam-like, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. When the dough has chilled properly, remove it from the fridge and set it on the countertop. Layer the disc of dough between two long pieces of plastic wrap so they are perpendicular to each other in the shape of a wide cross, with the dough securely in the center. Starting from the center and working out, roll out the dough to form a 10-inch circle, flipping over occasionally.
Once the tart crust is shaped, remove the top layer of plastic wrap and flip the delicate dough onto a sheet pan or cookie sheet, centering it as best you can.
Remove the plastic wrap and pile the onions into the center of the tart, leaving a 2-inch edge of tart dough. Dot on dollops of goat cheese. From there, fold the tart dough on top of the onions, creating a pentagon-shaped tart with an opening in the center. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart shell is golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving in wedges.