Who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, at least once in a while, for a sweet onion? That thick slice of purple Rocky Mountain onion on a burger at Coors Field? Candy slowly baked forever in a jam-like confit, sweeter than anything regular onions could do?
It’s almost impossible to think of a kitchen that doesn’t use onions, but sweet onions are special. (They also make up a small percentage of the world’s harvest.) Many candies sell in Colorado, such as Washington’s Walla Walla, Hawaii’s Maui, Rockies-purple Red Bermuda, or even our own state’s Colorado Sweet. , available here most years from August to October.
But nearly half of all the sweet onions cooks buy in the United States come from Vidalia, Georgia, and bear that name. Accidentally (and fortunately) discovered in the 1930s during the Great Depression, a Vidalia sports a whopping 12% sugar content compared to 5% for a normal onion.
Additionally, the low sulfur content of the soil around the town of Vidalia contributes to Vidalia’s low “scream quotient”. (Onions make you cry because of their native sulfur compounds that irritate our eyes.)
Two interesting facts about Vidalias: they are the official state vegetable of Georgia and the nickname of their mascot is “Yumion”.
The recipes here are three very different ways to eat Vidalias (or other sweet onions you could use in their place).
One is a baked Vidalia recipe that I learned from a close friend in Denver who once worked as a consultant in Georgia and brought this recipe back as his “favorite way to eat an onion”. It’s made terribly delicious and tastes like French onion soup in a block.
Another is from a regional cookbook celebrating recipes from across our country; you can eat Vidalia raw but lightly marinated. And the third recipe is from my favorite French home cooking website, marmiton.org. I translated for you a simple onion confit made with sweet onions. Enjoy it alongside a charcuterie, as a garnish for something grilled, or on a spoon as is.
That’s so sweet.
Vidalia onion in the oven
The recipe is for the onion called “Vidalia”, from the state of Georgia. You can use other sweet onions, of course, like a Washington State Walla Walla or, to keep it real, a Colorado Sweet. Gives 1 but multiplies easily. A whole onion is a decent serving for 1 person, especially if it comes with other foods to complete the service.
1 Vidalia onion
1 vegetable, chicken or beef stock cube or 3/4 teaspoon of the same as a paste
1â2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the onion, leaving the root intact. If the onion is level, leave it alone. Otherwise, cut a thin slice off the root to create a flat bottom. Use a paring knife to cut a wide cone 1 inch deep into the top of the onion. Insert a vegetable, chicken or beef stock cube (or the equivalent in paste form) into the hole.
Fill the rest of the hole with butter, about 1-2 tbsp. Season with pepper. Place the stuffed onion on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap it. Wrap the onion in foil, bringing the edges to the center. Twist the foil to seal the onion (it will look like a giant Hershey’s Kiss).
Place the foil-wrapped onion on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the onion is soft. Serve hot. (Cooking times remain the same for multiple onions.)
Vidalia Onion and Cucumber Salad
By Gabrielle Langholtz, editor, “America: The Cookbook” (Phaidon 2017). For 6 to 8 people.
4 cucumbers, peeled and cut into Â½-inch-thick slices
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-wide slices
Â½ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the cucumber and onion slices in a large heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic and 1/2 cup water. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, just to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour over cucumbers and onions, add pepper and toss gently to coat well. Cover tightly and refrigerate to cool completely, about 6 hours. Serve in the marinade liquid with a slotted spoon.
Sweet Onion Confit
Translated from marmiton.org. Made from 2-3 cups.
1 pound sweet onions (about 2 large or 3 medium), peeled and thinly sliced ââalong the “poles”
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cane sugar
Over medium-high heat, place a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Place 4 tablespoons of oil in the pan and when it shimmers slightly, add all the onions, tossing to coat with oil. Sprinkle with salt.
Brown the onions over medium to medium-high heat, making sure they don’t burn but just become more and more golden, 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. (In case of a burn, deglaze the burn with a little water, not oil.) When the onions are very tender and nicely browned, add the vinegar and stir. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook over medium or medium-low heat for an additional 15 minutes, stirring at least twice.
Notes: You can cover the cooking of the onions for part of the time, lowering the heat during this period. You can use other kinds of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, if you don’t want the confit to be so dark. You can also add other flavorings such as 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard, or 1 tablespoon honey, or 1/4 cup dry red wine or port.
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