Of all the vegetables on the farm, the onion is certainly the most patient but least celebrated. Months after more delicate offerings have perished on the vines, weeks after even the hardiest greens succumb to frosty weather, onions lie in wait. Even under a light blanket of snow, they wait to be discovered, like pungent little jewels hidden deep in the earth. Harvested just before the ground freezes solid, they sit patiently—often for months–placidly waiting in storage bins. And then, to be cast into the role of supporting player or a mere addition to mirapoix: maybe it’s just karma that onions make us shed a few tears.
But please do not be sad if your onion makes you cry; cutting into one breaks cell walls in the plant, releasing sulfur compounds that sting your eyes and stimulate the flow of tears. In the true fashion of a double-edged sword, those irritating compounds also protect against cancer, heart disease and inflammation. If you are especially sensitive, freeze them for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing, to slow the release of those volatile compounds. Then make friends again, with these recipes that cast onions in their rightful starring role.
Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup with Truffled Croutons
This soup is extremely easy, but requires a little time to fully caramelize the onions; don’t hurry this step, or you’ll miss the deep, rich flavors. Make a salad, prepare the croutons and set the table while the onions caramelize. Use a hand-held immersion blender for pureeing the soup to control the smoothness (I like mine with just a little texture). You can make this soup as a vegan dish; substitute olive oil for the butter and use vegetable stock, and skip the cream at the end. The soup so rich and dense, I don’t always add cream; it’s really just gilding the lily, but there’s no crime in that either.
2 tablespoon butter (substitute olive oil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine (substitute 1/2 cup stock)
5 to 6 cups homemade or high-quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 celery stalk, chopped small
3 large Yukon Gold or red potatoes, diced
1 large sprig thyme
1/2 cup cream (optional)
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1/2 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tablespoons parsley
1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden-brown caramelized.
2. Add wine or stock and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add 5 cups stock, celery, potatoes and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, about 25 minutes until potatoes are soft. Remove and dispose of thyme sprig (compost it), then puree soup until thick and creamy but not completely smooth. Add remaining stock as needed to thin, and add cream if desired. Season with sea salt and white pepper.
3. While potatoes are cooking, preheat broiler to high. Arrange baguette slices on a baking pan and drizzle lightly with truffle oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and black pepper and broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley.
4. To serve, divide soup between individual cups or bowls and float 2 or 3 croutons on top. Serve immediately.
Next: Roasted Stuffed Onions with Fiery Rouille