Tarte aux Oignons (Onion Pie)

A traditional savory dish from France with onions, cheese, and cream in a crisp, buttery crust

By Elizabeth Semrai

April in Paris / Chestnuts in blossom / Holiday tables under the trees ... So goes the song.

[photo chef max-width=150 align=right]It's April in Paris! So we’re celebrating French culinary delights with a traditional recipe that a grandmother from France shared with us. Our reader Françoise Dudal Kirkman, who now lives in the United States, grew up in France. She is a grandmother of three, a cook, an artist, an art director, and a cookbook writer. Françoise shares with us a favorite savory dish, tarte aux oignons, or onion pie — a recipe the entire family will enjoy. Get the recipe now »

A fond cooking memory from Françoise:

"I grew up in the center of France, in a region we call 'Le Berry Bourbonnais,' which has a rich history and good traditional dishes. Each town has its own specialty. A few kilometers from my hometown, you can visit Nohant, the country residence of George Sand, the famous nineteenth-century writer who was also well known for her fine table and the distinguished guests who enjoyed her cooking, among them: Chopin, Balzac, Dumas, and Delacroix.

"I was the youngest of my family, following three sisters and a brother. My mother and my sisters were excellent cooks who took advantage of the tasty products common to the area. I was more inclined to use my paintbrushes, pencils, and pens than kitchen utensils. When I was 18 years old, I moved to Paris to study art, but I always enjoyed my weekends back home for the good meals I was missing while living as a student.

[photo author max-width=150 align=right]"While in Paris in the early sixties, I met my husband, who is an American. We moved to California, and as a wedding gift, my sister Michelle sent me a letter full of her great recipes — all those which had made her family and friends' palates so happy. She thought the time had come for me to get myself into the kitchen. I did, and I discovered after all that cooking is an art. Michelle's
tarte aux oignons, or onion pie, makes a delicious lunch accompanied by a green salad and a cool glass of rosé. It is also easy to make."

Earlier this year we awarded Françoise, along with writer Jerry Anne Di Vecchio, a Grandy Award for being a most intriguing grandparent. Read more about her, and discover Françoise and Jerry Anne's book, You've Got Recipes (Trafford Publishing, 2009), or visit their blog.

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes


2 pounds white or yellow onions (about 4 large onions), or 2 pounds leeks (as a substitute for onions), finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg

3/4 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups flour, plus some for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of milk

1. Prepare the dough (for the crust): Put butter, flour, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few minutes, then add milk. Continue pulsing until a ball forms. Place dough in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

3. Sauté onions in olive oil over low heat, about 40 minutes. Do not let them brown. Stir in flour.

4. Blend cream with egg yolks and cheese; add mixture to onions. Add salt and pepper; add nutmeg.

5. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites to a peak and fold gently into onion mixture.

6. Remove dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough and mold it to a 9-inch pie pan. Pour in filling.

7. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F; continue baking about 35 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Serves 6 to 8

Visit our Recipes section for more cooking and baking ideas, including a recipe for baked French potatoes and kitchen tips from Chef Jacques Pépin, and sign up to get our FREE food newsletter delivered to you twice a month.

Get your grandkids in the French spirit! Help them learn the song Frère Jacques.


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