Posts tagged onions
Sunday, February 15, 2009

glazed pearl onions in port

port braised onions

Honestly, if someone told me I had to go and live on a uninhabited island and could bring one vegetable with me, it would be an onion. My kitchen feels oddly empty when I run out, which is why I buy loads of them at once as if the great onion famine is going to set in any day. I always wonder about the folks in the check-out line with a singular onion – why just one? Can’t you just chop up a great deal of them and make caramelized onions, spread them on bread with a little fleur de sel and you have a meal fit for a king?

Consider the onion – it is a humble thing. It’s subterranean, for one, growing in the dirt. It isn’t all sweet and welcoming like a carrot is, for instance. It’s never been serenaded, unlike, say the plum. Songs have not been written about it unlike beans for example. It’s got a smell, a bite, and it makes you cry. It’s cheap, fairly pedestrian and socially maligned (just try ordering a salad for lunch with onions and see what happens). And yet, what sandwich would be complete without it? What soup wouldn’t get more depth if you took on onion out? Making stock? Better have an onion on hand.

port braised onionsport braised onions

And when I say I can be giddy with a piece of hearty bread, topped with slowly caramelized onions and fleur de sel, I’m not lying. As a child, it was one thing my mother could make at any time and I would eat it. All of it. Without leaving so much as a little onion piece behind. I would have turned down chocolate and cookies just to sit down with a bowl of caramelized onions. And I might be the only one out there who swoons at the word “allium” – I once name my goldfish that. Unfortunately the goldfish lived an additional three hours and then decided it was time to go belly up. Perhaps it was offended at the name, but I meant it in the highest of compliments.

port braised onions

So let me just warn you before I give you the recipe for this. If you’re an onion fan and if the thought of slow-cooking an onion gives you weak knees like it does to me, run to the grocery store and get the ingredients to make this. Go now, don’t wait. As a side dish this is perfection. Roasted in port, these are luxurious, earthy, fully developed flavors. While peeling them is time consuming and is a pain, the end result is so worth it. Besides, roasting the onions in port makes the dish anything but pedestrian.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

pissaladiere

the power of sprat

We’ve barely had two days of spring, and I’ve been just itching with ideas for new projects. With the move almost behind me, I’ve focused on unpacking and settling in as quickly as possible. And I’m almost there too! Between KS and me, efficiency is our shared strong suit. And with some time on my hands while KS is in sunny Mustique next week enjoying things like the beach and fish tea, I am eager to get started with all things spring.

Like plant some herbs on our patio. And maybe a few flowers. I’ve got zero landscaping skills, but I am going to do a little research and digging on my trusty friend, the internet, and hopefully come up with some easy, cost-effective solutions. And of course, with my gardening project in mind, I’ve also shifted gears in my food cravings and consumption. My winter cravings for root vegetables and hearty stews is all but gone and my cravings are for all things fresh, crisp, spring-like.

Whenever I think of spring, I think of Provence with its fields of flowering lavender, outdoor tables with little bowls of olives and freshly baked bread with thick salted crusts. Provençal food, to me, is a real reminder of the vernal season, though I cannot justify the association.

And so with spring on my mind, and in my step, I decided to make something I’ve always enjoyed rather gluttonously, yet never attempted to make – a pissaladière. Pissaladière comes from Pissalat — a provençal condiment made of puréed anchovies mixed with some herbs and olive oil and spread on the pastry dough. I was inspired by Béa’s beautiful pictures and writing over a month ago and was looking for a perfect occasion to craft one myself.

caramelized & ready to go

I must note a few things here that might help you in your own preparation of this dish. For one, I think that the pastry dough should be made and not bought. I say this only because the store-bough version I had was lovely, but not breathtaking. Like a picture-frame that could make or break a picture, the pastry in this case was good, but not great. And so in my next take on this dish, which turned out really great, I will make my own pastry dough, recipe yet to be determined.

The onions take longer to cook than the recipe suggested. I cooked them rather slowly (as not to burn them) for about 45 minutes. And for my own, odd, taste preferences I omitted the garlic. I know, I know – you’re probably thinking you did what?!?!?!? But I’d thought (and I don’t regret making this choice one bit) that I wanted the onions, caramelized and sweet with some salt to give them edge, to be the stars of this show. And maybe the anchovies playing the supporting role.

twenty minutes away from baked bliss

A propos anchovies, another note. I couldn’t find any in our cupboards. But it’s entirely possible I didn’t know where to look (as I often miss things right in front of my very nose). But my mother did send me back to New York once, with a few Russian store goodies, including a can of sprats. Sprats are apparently little species of herring that are often packed in oil, much like sardines. I quite like them, having grown up with eating them right on thick slices or dark, Russian bread with pieces of onion.

And you know what? The sprats worked gloriously well – giving a slightly salty edge to the sweetness of the onions. And the little Niçoise olives completed the flavors quite nicely.

smelling of spring and sea

And so the three of us, KS, a friend, and myself, enjoyed this little rite of spring, sipping Riesling and enjoying the night. And though KS and I went to bed rather late, by our school-night standards, we were full and content, and delighted in good company and a favorable change in season.

Perhaps, to give Provence its due course, I should think of planting some lavender upstairs – the next best thing to actually being in Provence in the springtime.

Continue reading pissaladiere.