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A friend of mine had a birthday party this weekend.  A birthday party centered around appetizers and wine… nothing wrong with that!  I had a hard time deciding what to make, knowing only that I wanted to use puff pastry, because it was in the freezer already.

One of my go to appetizers for a long time has been little slices of bruschetta topped with gorgonzola cheese and honey, heated until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy.  But I wanted to try something new.  I found a recipe from Recipe Girl, and had to give it a try, it has the same basic flavors as my old standby, but with a classy twist.  This isn’t the quickest appetizer to make, so give yourself at least an hour and a half, although some of that time won’t be very hands on since the onions cook for like 40 minutes.  I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules and eating pears… and I have to admit that they were really good.

This appetizer is composed of puff pasty topped with bite-size pieces of pear, a small pile of balsamic caramelized onions, and a little bit of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, baked and then drizzled with honey.  They were a hit at the party!

To start, collect all of your ingredients.  This is the perfect time to pull the puff pastry out to let it thaw, as it will take about the same amount of time thawing at room temperature as it will take to caramelize the onions.  You’ll need roughly four large sweet onions and two firm ripe pears (I used D’Anjou), plus a box of puff pastry, balsamic vinegar, honey, Gorgonzola cheese (which I forgot in the picture because I’m spacy), and salt and pepper.  You will also need a little bit of olive oil and butter for the onions.

Put the puff pastry sheets out to thaw on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Turn over after roughly 20 minutes to ensure that they thaw evenly.

Start by slicing the onions.  Cut the onions in half from stem to end, then cut off the top and bottom of each half.  Slice the onions as thin as possible.  It will look like too many onions, but don’t stop slicing.  They cook down considerably when you caramelize them.

In a large skillet (12-inch, or two smaller pans), heat roughly 3 tablespoons of butter and one of olive oil.  When the butter and olive oil are hot, add the onions, tossing with a set of tongs to make sure they are all covered with the oil/butter mixture.  Lower the heat to just under medium (I used setting four).

The onions will need to cook for roughly 40 minutes.  Turn them occasionally to make sure that they are cooking evenly and not burning.  If you had to use two pans, combine the onions as soon as they have cooked down enough to do so.  The onions will start to turn brown and caramelized on the bottom.  Stir them so that the other onions pick up that color, rather than letting it burn to the pan.  When the onions have begun to take on a uniformly golden color, pour in 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and stir/toss to combine (I used tongs for the whole process).

The onions are golden, with some dark brown spots. Perfect.

Since the pan is hot the vinegar will bubble and sizzle, becoming quite fragrant.

Let the onions cook for another ten minutes or so, allowing the balsamic vinegar to reduce and really soak into the onions.  When done, season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat to cool.

During the last 10 or 15 minutes of the onions cooking, heat the oven to 375 and start to slice the pears.  Slice them thinly, removing the cores and base and stems.  Chop those slices into small pieces.

The puff pastry should be thawed by now, so move the second sheet to a separate cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.  Unfold both sheets, and use your fingers or a rolling-pin to smooth out the creases.  Cut the sheets into rectangles, roughly 2 inches by 3 inches, separating the rectangles slightly so that they don’t cook into each other.

Top each rectangle with 2 or 3 pieces of pear, then cover the pears with the balsamic onions.  Sprinkle some Gorgonzola cheese on top of each rectangle as well (add as much or little as you like).  Bake the squares for 25-30 minutes, checking them a little early to make sure they aren’t burning.  This batch was done right at 25 minutes.

Drizzle with honey right before serving.  Serve warm!  Enjoy.

Pear, Caramelized Onion, and Gorgonzola Puff Pastry Bites
Recipe Adapted from Recipe Girl, May 2006: Pear and Blue Cheese Pastry Triangles

4 large sweet yellow onions, sliced as thinly as possible
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 firm ripe pears
1 box puff pastry (2 sheets) thawed at room temperature
4-7 ounces of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
honey to drizzle over tops

1.  Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet (12 inches if possible, or two smaller pans.  When hot, add the onions and toss with tongs to coat evenly with oil and butter.  Let onions cook until golden brown, tossing occasionally so they don’t burn, roughly 30 minutes.

2.  Heat oven to 375.  When the onions are uniformly golden, add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and stir.  Allow to cook for another 10 minutes, letting the onions absorb the vinegar as it reduces.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat to cool.

3.  While the onions finish cooking, slice the pears thinly, remove cores and stems.  Chop into small pieces.

4.  Unfold the puff pastry onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.  Use fingers or a rolling-pin to smooth out creases.  Cut the pastry sheets into rectangles (roughly 2 inches x 3 inches) with a pizza or pastry cutter, or sharp knife.  There should be roughly 18 pieces per sheet.  Separate the pieces slightly so they won’t bake together.

5.  Top each piece with a couple of pieces of pear, a heap of onions, and some Gorgonzola crumbles.  Bake in heated oven for roughly 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.

6.  Drizzle pastry bites with honey and serve warm.  Enjoy!

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