Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sweet and Sour Onions

Not surprisingly, many publications that we read here in the Commissary use the late year holidays as an excuse to unleash myriad Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's recipes on an already-beleaguered audience simply trying to survive the mass hysteria until early January. Some recipes are classic (about 80 different ways to prepare stuffing, for example), some are nouveau (cornbread with creamy poblano chiles), and some are not necessarily specific to the season, but sound good anyway. This was the case with a recipe I recently saw in a weekend issue of the Wall Street Journal, featured in an article highlighting so-called "alternative" side dishes for Thanksgiving. Paul Bartolotta is a Milwaukee-based chef who specializes in inventive Italian dishes - Mrs. Hackknife has had the good fortune to dine in 3 of his restaurants (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in the Wynn Las Vegas, and Bacchus/Ristorante Bartolotta, both in Milwaukee) over the last few years, each time without me, I might add (but I'm not bitter or anything). His contribution to the WSJ article was a version of Cipolline in Agrodolce, or sweet and sour onions, a traditional Italian side dish. Although I'd seen another sweet and sour onion recipe before (in my ever-present and oft-referenced April 2010 issue of Saveur), Chef Bartolotta uses chicken stock, some butter, and red wine vinegar to play up the savory aspects of the dish (the Saveur recipe includes raisins, no butter, and only balsamic vinegar, which I assume results in a sweeter finished product). When the time came to make a simple noodles with pesto sauce entree one Sunday night, I decided to roll out Chef Paul's onions for a side.

There's nothing terribly complex about the dish prep, although I think I may have overdone it a bit on the caramelization step, as a few of the onions ended up slightly singed (burned food is never a desired result). Luckily, the problem was isolated and the rest of the recipe proceeded without incident. The finished onions were dark, complex, and a little on the rich side - Mrs. Hackknife enjoyed it, but only in small doses. As with many of the sweet/sour vegetable recipes, it doesn't look like there's a lot in the pan when you're done, but what's left is very, um, concentrated in flavor. Next time I choose this for a side dish, I'd like to give the Saveur recipe a whirl to see if that version is a little less decadent than Chef Paul's...

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