French Onion Tarts and Good Knives

Friday 5 April 2013

 I was recently contacted by the Kato Group and asked if I would like to test out one of their Eden Classic Damast Knives.  I said absolutely.  I have had a Damast Classic Santoku knife for a couple of years now and it is my favourite knife.  I have always loved the way it feels in my hand and the weight of it.  I have also always loved it's performance, but more about that later . . .

The Eden Quality Classic Damast series is manufactured from Japanese Damast stainless steel with a core of hardened VG-10 steel.  VG-10 steel is generally considered to be one of the best kinds of stainless steel in the production of good knives.  Hardened up to 60 HRc, which means that you will have supreme cutting performance for a very long time along with easy resharpening.

Damast steel consists of a large number of layers of various types of steel, all forged together, which produce an attractive wavy pattern, and great protection against corrosion.

The Damast Series of knives feature blades that are thin enough to provide the cook with excellent cutting performance, and yet thick enough to provide for strength in performance.  I love the handles of these knives.  They are made of a composite created from fabric and resin, which not only looks great, but feels great in the hand, providing an excellent grip.  Like I said, I love my Santoku knife very much.

I  have a new favourite in this 8 inch Chef's knife they sent to me.  I already had another brand of Chef's knife and in using this Damast one this week, I have found it to be far superior to the one I already had.  A Chef's knife is a great all rounder knife.  If you can only afford one good knife, this is the one to buy as it works well for most common cutting jobs in the kitchen, with the exception of perhaps boning, paring or carving.

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I had the Toddster take a photo of me using the correct finger stance for safe cutting in the kitchen.  You want to curl your knuckles over what you are cutting, whilst maintaining a strong grip with your fingertips.  Your knuckles will provide a safe barrier between your fingertips and the knife.  I remember when we were learning cutting on my first day in Culinary school, I was told I had great knife skills.   I remember feeling very pumped about that!

As any good chef or cook knows, your best friend in the kitchen is a good knife, or knives.  They can also be your worst enemy, so its important that you handle them with respect and use them correctly.  I remember my mother almost cutting her thumb off with a dull chef's knife when she was cutting some ham way back when I was just six years old.  There was blood everywhere.  It was really scary and she still bears the scars.

 There are a few rules which if you  follow them, will insure that you can achieve a professional "Best" peformance with them each time you use them.  The most dangerous tool in the kitchen is a dull knife  It is important that you keep your knives sharp and in good condition.

  • when carrying knives, the points must be held downwards.
  • knives on the table must be placed flat and not project over the edge of the table.
  • when using knives, concentrate on the job in hand.
  • keep knives sharp and use the correct knife for the correct purpose
  • after use, always wipe the knife, blade away from the hand.
  • keep knife handles clean and do not leave in the sink.
  • never misuse knives.  After each use wash, rinse dry and put away safely.
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Yesterday  I found myself with several bags of brown cooking onions which needed using up, and so I decided I wanted to make something which would use some of them in a tasty way.  I have always been a big fan of French Onion Soup . . . ever since I tasted my first ever bowl of it, created by my friend Julia when we were both students at University.   I had never even heard of French Onion Soup before she made it for me.  It was love at first slurp!

 Yesterday I decided to take those same flavours of French Onion Soup and turn them into tasty individual serving sized tarts.   Slow cooked and caramelized onions . . . with just a hint of beef and booze.  But how to get that in a tart . . . without it being too soupy . . . thereby rendering the pastry soggy . . . the pastry had to stay crisp.

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That was easily accomplished by slowly sauteeing the onions with just a hint of beefy stock concentrate, butter, olive oil and a splash of calvados, some dried thyme and a bay leaf.   I added some finely chopped banana shallot and garlic for an added depth of flavour . . . and when the mixture had all cooked down so that it was almost jammy . . . and nicely caramelized, I turned out the burner, stirred in some Parmesan Cheese, melting it into all of that oniony deliciousness.  After letting it cool down to room temperature I divided it amongst four individual casserole dishes I had lined with all butter puff pastry . . .

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One of the things I love about a good bowl of French Onion Soup is that crunchy crouton on top and all of that gorgeous cheese . . . toasted just so  and laying afloat on the top of it all.  I am not particularly fond of TOO much cheese.  I have had it in restaurants before where it was almost impossible to eat for the cheese . . . far too much, so much that you are almost gagging in trying to chew and swallow it.  That's not good.  There is such a thing as too much . . .  I topped my tarts with some crisp buttery cracker crumbs, which gave a bit of crunch and a slice of Jarlsburg, along with a light dusting of more grated Parmesan.  Parmesan is a fabulous cheese, which delivers a lot of great flavour without you having to use too much of it.

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When I am making something savory with puff pastry, I always like to glaze the edges with a bit of milk and then add the extra pleasure of a bit of crunch and bite by sprinkling them with a bit of coarsely cracked black pepper and some sea salt flakes.  Not only does it look good, but it also tastes fabulous.

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Oh my but this all worked together fabulously . . . we had that crisp and buttery flaky crust from the puff pastry . . . filled with rich and well flavoured jammy textures onions . . . topped with oozing cheese and tasty crunch.   We both enjoyed these so much and they are now on my list of favourites.  I can tell you in all honesty . . . I WOULD serve these to company.

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No question about it . . . and the preparation was all made so much easier by being able to use this beautiful new knife.  I do hope you will give them a try.   This is dinner party fare . . . made easy.  I think your guests would be most impressed at the very least.  On their own they would make a beautiful starter.  Accompanied with some vegetables and a salad, a very tasty main.

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*French Onion Tarts*
Makes 4 single serving tarts
Printable Recipe

Your favourite soup in a tart.  Delicious!

1 sheet of all butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
6 medium brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf, broken in half
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS calvados (apple brandy)
1 tsp liquid beef stock extract
8 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices of Jarlsberg or Gruyere Cheese
8 buttery round crackers
To finish:
some milk
coarsely ground black pepper
sea salt flakes

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Melt the butter, together with the oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions, garlic, shallot, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper to taste.   Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften and caramelize.  Stir in the calvados and beef stock.  Stir in  half of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Remove the bay leaf.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required, adding salt and pepper if needed.  Set aside to cool somewhat.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Have ready four tart tins of small shallow single serving casserole dishes.   Butter them.

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Cut the puff pastry into four rectangles.   Press these rectangles down into the buttered dishes.   Allowing some overhang and pinching it somewhat in the corners decoratively.   Divide the onion mixture equally amongst the four dishes.   Crumble 1 cracker over top of each.  Top with a slice of Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese.  Crumple another cracker on top of each again.  Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Brush the corners of the pastry with a bit of milk and sprinkle decoratively with some coarse black pepper and sea salt flakes.  Place the four dishes on a baking tray and bang the tray into the oven.   Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is gooey.   Serve hot.

Many thanks to the Kato Group and Eden for sending me this fabulous knife.  You can check them out for yourself here.


  1. Wow! Love the knives Marie, and those onion tarts are seriously good!

  2. Yum. I am so pleased to read about the knives. I now have a set of knives but mine are Global brand. If I had been able to afford too I would have bought Wusthoff knives.

    Knives are funny thing. They really do need to feel like an extension of your hand. I become cross when a left hander uses my knife as it seems to dull them fast! I keep an eye for the knives yo have showcased. My Will has developed a real love for his knives and is now looking for a Santoko type one.

  3. Todd took a good pic:)

    These look so delicious Marie..Hope you get to keep those knives..You deserve them..well you must..they can't sell used knives:)

  4. Lol!! Want to hear something funny?? I have HORRIBLE knife skills! My Mom can't watch me cut things, it drives her crazy. I've never been able to hold the things I'm cutting correctly, grating my knuckles with a cheese grater one too many times made me paranoid of cutting my knuckles off. So my fingertips are right there all dangerous-like. The good news is that I cut slowly and carefully, and can't remember the last time I cut myself... I could be speedier and more professional if I did it the right way, but I just can't! You'd probably have to look away too :) I've never actually had french onion soup, but always wanted to. Your tarts look FABULOUS and I'm sending the link too my mom, she would adore them!! You're such a genius :)
    Lots of Love, April


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