Potluck Capital of the World

Victoria seems to me to have an above average number of dinner parties of a potluck nature. (These are not to be confused with potlatch parties which are on another plane entirely and I have yet to receive an invitation to one.) For last weekend’s event – in a largely vegetarian household – I was assigned a starter or salad course, so I turned to the infallible Delia for inspiration.

In my treasured tome Delia’s Vegetarian Collection I found a winner in her Red Onion Tarte Tatin: the onions turn sweet and joyful, and the crust – a butter pastry which I’ve never had much luck with – even worked. Here are the ingredients, translated into North American measurements. Purists with kitchen scales (and those wanting photos and the recipe’s instructions!) should turn to the original recipe. (There’s a quicker variation, based on a shallot tarte tatin recipe, using commercial puff pastry, at Waitrose.com).

2½ lb (1.15 kg) red onions (about 5 medium)
2 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon sugar
6 small thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the pastry:
3/4 c white flour
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c soft butter
1/3 c cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

And here’s a ditty from Jonathan Swift to mutter as you cook:

This is every cook’s opinion –
No savory dish without an onion,
But lest your kissing should be spoiled
Your onions must be fully boiled.

My next task will be juicing some of this year’s apple crop – nothing nicer to dig out from a winter deep freeze than home made apple juice sweetened with summer carrots – but a lot of peeling and chopping ahead of me to get those apples into the juicer. So I was pleased and inspired to find a poem called Apples in a collection I’ve been reading (Saltations, by Jennifer Still – poet and co-founder of JackPine Press, which produces exquisite chapbooks).

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4 Responses to Potluck Capital of the World

  1. Tracy Hamon says:

    Homemade ketchup sounds yummy. Do you think if I use fresh tomatoes (they are ripening faster than I can type) I would need more water?

  2. Rhona McAdam says:

    Hi Tracy! Ketchup from your own tomatoes sounds so good! I would have thought you’d need less water as fresh tomatoes have so much juice in them – tomato paste or canned crushed tomatoes are pretty thick. But if it ends up too runny, you can just keep simmering the mixture (uncovered) until it gets to the right consistency.

  3. Ariel Gordon says:

    Hey Rhona…a friend of mine recently came into a windfall (literally) of apples and offered me half. I was grateful but not looking forward to a sticky evening of peeling and coring until she mentioned that she had a handy-dandy contraption that would do the job nicely.

    Lee Valley, which should be right up your alley, sells them for about thirty dollars and they’re a wonder.

    But then I like contraptions, especially ones that work and are well designed. For instance, the postage machine at work that licks and seals envelopes always seemed rather wonderful – a machine with a tongue!

    Anyways, I also wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed your blog, browsing over from Brenda’s site.

  4. Rhona McAdam says:

    Ariel, thanks for the idea! I guess you mean the apple peeler. A couple of people recommended them to me, and oddly enough I was given one for my birthday this year, but I’m not sure it will help me. It works beautifully on hard symmetrical apples – not so well on soft misshapen apples from my tree.

    I agree with you about contraptions in general though. I like the idea of machines doing work like licking and sealing envelopes. I want one of those robots that vacuums and washes floors…