Sunday, January 5, 2014

Like An Onion, Caramelized For the Very First Time. Cipollini Agrodolce

cipollini onions

   This was the first Christmas we spent without my parents present, and the first major holidays spent without loved ones are always difficult. We wanted to remember them in a very special way this Christmas, and so I decided to break out the family china and crystal for a traditional Tuscan feast. Old family favorites were served along with a few new traditions for a feeling of continuity along with a fresh start.

   What could be fresher than finds from the Sonoma Farmers market? The freezing temperatures and the lack of rain here have made this winter's markets fairly slim pickings. One of things that there has been no shortage of however, are onions. Brown, white, torpedo, onions galore including the deliciously sweet cipollini. Small, flat and mild tasting, cipollini onions are perfect for roasting and also for caramelizing in balsamic vinegar for a great sweet and sour flavor. I'd prepared these onions before for family Christmas dinners but never quite in this way. Let me tell you, it's going to be a new family classic around here. The recipe comes from James Beard Award winning chef Fabio Trabocchi and it's worth taking advantage of these little Winter onions while they're here and plentiful.

Caramelized Cipollini Onions

Here's What You Need:
1 and 1/2 lb cipollini onions
1/3 cup of sugar
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
4 bay leaves
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Here's What To Do:
Boil a large pot of water.
When the water boils, toss in the onions.

Par boil them for about 1 minute.

Drain the onions.

Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Set them aside to cool a bit.
Zest 1 lemon.

Mix the lemon zest with the bay leaves.

When the onions have cooled a bit, slip them out of their outer skin by cutting off the tip of the onion...

...and gently slipping off the skin.

Put 1/3 cup of sugar in a skillet in a little mound.

Add 1 tbs of water to it.

Gently melt the sugar water under a moderate heat without stirring it.

I rotated the pan around on the heat, sliding the dissolved sugar around until it  forms a light amber colored caramel.

Take the pan off the heat and carefully stir in the butter...

...and the balsamic vinegar. I used  Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Sonoma Harvest.

Be careful adding the vinegar, as the caramel will harden up and you'll have hard crunchy bits of sugar. This is okay as you'll see.

Put the pan back on the heat and stir until the caramel is melted again.
When the caramel has melted down again, add in the onions...

...the lemon zest, and the bay leaves.

Stir everything around, and add in the broth.

Bring the whole thing to a boil, then add salt and pepper to taste, turn the heat down and let everything simmer over a low heat until the onions are glazed and the liquid is syrupy. This takes about 1 and 1/2 hour.

cipollini onions

Serve them up, or you can make them ahead and reheat them the day of the event.

   These onions are delicious, sweet and savory with a bit of vinegary bite. They were perfect partners with the citrus marinated crown roast of pork I served as a main dish, and with the steak I cooked up the other day when I couldn't help making them again. It was good making a new dish and serving it on the tableware my family has used for generations, making a new traditions to accompany old memories.

    Coming up next, seasonal Indian dishes made for winter weather. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Those onions looks exquisite. I'm sure your folks would have approved. Best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

    1. Thanks,
      It's a great recipe and I've been making it like crazy!



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