Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Creamed Onion Gratin/Yucatecan Pickled Red Onions

I am a big fan of onions. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. In the 6th or 7th grade, my childhood friend Chris Wise and I went so far as to create onion sandwiches (raw sliced onions atop buttered, toasted bread with a little salt) based on a recipe in a novel that we were reading for school. Yes, they were potent and no, I didn't really have much of a concept of what bad breath meant at the time. Anyway, as a slightly more discerning adult, I'm happy to try onions of most any variety in about any context (the sandwich notwithstanding - I think I consumed my last one sometime around 1986).

You can imagine my pleasure then at seeing a whole article on the humble onion in the November 2011 issue of Saveur (with accompanying recipes, of course). Before cooking up Chinese pork ribs one day last week, I sought out a new side dish and found in this article a decadent-sounding recipe for creamed onion gratin, which I decided to give a whirl. It contains a solid dose of early death-inducing ingredients, such as heavy cream (1 c. full), butter (2 Tbsp., not terribly bad), Gorgonzola cheese (almost 1/4 lb.), and grated Parmesan (1/2 c.), a combination that would presumably make Escoffier proud. Throw in a little dry white wine (I used a bottle of Spanish Albarino that I had on hand) and you've got yourself an ultra-rich, sloppy, boozy mess of goodness that actually could have used more onions in my opinion to help balance out the abundant fat. Although it did go well with ribs and garlic bread, I exhausted the onions on my plate faster than the cheese/cream fallout left behind and just couldn't in good conscience bring myself to swallow down what remained (Mrs. Hackknife invented a novel use for the leftover slop - tortilla chip dip). My doctor is endorsing a proposed lifetime ban of this dish from the Commissary. He may get vetoed.

Now that we've demonstrated that onions go well with dairy, I've proven that they're also a good match for acid, namely red wine vinegar. Another Saveur onion recipe is for pickled red onion, a specialty of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula used primarily as a relish for seafood. Raw red onions are sliced and placed in a jar with salt, oregano, garlic, cumin seeds, whole black peppercorns, and the aforementioned red wine vinegar. After chilling the mixture for a minimum of 4 hours, the onions are pickled and ready to go. I tried them as a side dish to go with a stuffed pepper taco (bought at a local Mexican cafe, not made at home) and they were fairly high on the potency scale, sour and crisp (see photo above). The progeny and I are planning another round of tacos tomorrow evening (this time our more traditional ground turkey) and I intend to do more pickled onion research, this time by including them among the taco toppings.

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