Chef’s Choice: Caramelized Onion Tart at NoMI

By Sarah Freeman  |  December 18, 2013
Credit: Nick Murway

Food envy is a common affliction that happens to the best of us. A hot plate of something delicious comes out of the kitchen, fills the dining room with smells that make heads turn at every table... and is not placed in front of you. To ensure that you don't overlook something especially tasty, we went straight to the experts - the chefs - and asked them which dish on their current menu makes their mouths water.

It was the late 90s and chef Ryan LaRoche was watching the magnanimous Hubert Keller on his PBS television program, Secrets of a Chef. LaRoche was by no means a chef at this time, in fact, he was just learning how to cook and saw Keller’s preparation of a simple onion tart as a challenge. “I love the classics and I wanted to do a dish similar to that,” LaRoche said. “The dish itself is very humble, but technique driven. It’s a perfect balance of acidity and richness and the flavor profile is quite interesting.”

NoMI - LaRoche’s home since 2011 - is known for its sweet tarts created by pastry chef Meg Galus, but LaRoche felt the dish deserved a spot on the savory side of the menu, too. His version of the onion tart caramelizes onions then folds them into a béchamel sauce with niçoise olives and egg yolk. The filling is poured into a housemade shell and baked. After it is cooked, the tart is garnished with white belly anchovy, rocket and pecorino cheese. A small drizzle of sherry vinaigrette and espolette garnish the plate.

LaRoche admits that this is by no means one of the more popular dishes on the menu; a lot of downtown diners are scared of the word anchovy. However, he recommends this dish for curios diners as a homage not only to the classic French chef but also to classic French cooking. Taste how LaRoche's abilities have evolved from when he was a culinary student trying to comprehend Keller's accent to an executive chef of an elite restaurant.