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Prejean’s Famous Gumbo

May 18, 2010

Last weekend I headed down to New Orleans to see my parents who live there and to soak in some much needed southern time.  This involves feeling the warm air with a slight edge of humidity this time of year, smelling the Cajun seasonings in a restaurant while drinking an Abita beer, watching the enormous barges get pushed up the Mississippi river by their little tugboat, seeing the performers in the French Quarter entertain the crowds, and getting powder sugar from Café Du Monde’s beignets all over my clothes.   It was all divine and just what I needed.

Avery Island, Louisiana

Once a week my parents take a little field trip exploring the areas outside the city.  Sometimes they head up the Mississippi river to see all the old plantation homes and other times they might find their way to a far away restaurant they read about, but one of their favorite trips is to Avery Island in Louisiana’s famous bayou country.  Although this island may be more commonly known as the home of the popular Tabasco sauce, it is also the home of Jungle Gardens—a remarkably gorgeous park filled with Spanish moss covered trees, swamps, egrets, and alligators.

Avery Island, Louisiana

For me, the alligators were the most fun to see.  Before I let you think I am overly courageous, I should admit that the alligators in this park are all under five feet long.  Anything larger gets moved to less visited swamps in the area.  Nonetheless, it was exciting—if not a little scary—walking up to see the alligators close-up.  I mean, I was at least a little courageous, right?

Once we left Avery Island we then headed to Lafayette, passing by fields of sugar cane and small little towns.  I even saw one man sitting on his front porch playing his saxophone as the farmers were beginning to end their day.  I love seeing the countryside in Louisiana—it is still so rich in culture.  Time here just seems to pass by more slowly and take me back to an earlier era.

Avery Island, Louisiana

Our destination in Lafayette was Prejean’s, who are famous for their pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo served at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest.  My brother and his wife discovered this heavenly gumbo, and as a result my parents have now made Prejean’s one of their favorite stops on field trips in the area.  My dad excitably told me about their dinners there where Cajun bands play at night and diners step up from their tables to dance along the music.  It sounds just like how I romanticize the social scenes in these small towns out in the country.

Since we had other dinner plans, we were not dining in but picking up a gallon of their pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo to take home for a later night.  When the lady first brought out the gumbo, I immediately noticed how rich in color it was.  If the color was any indication of the richness in taste, then I knew this was going to be special and I was looking forward to trying it.

Finally on my last night in New Orleans, we had the gumbo and it was incredibly abundant in flavor.  The gaminess of the pheasant and quail mixed with the richly flavored broth was the perfect match.  Then coupled with the spiciness of the andouille sausage…well, that was just pure perfection.

The colorful windows that are typical in the French Quarter

A few days after I was back in New York, missing my time in New Orleans, my dad sent me the recipe for Prejean’s gumbo that he had found at Nola.com.  I could hardly wait for the weekend to roll around so that I could make this.

Now, the recipe calls for some ingredients that may be hard to find.  I don’t know about y’all, but I just don’t get to do much pheasant hunting in Central Park.  As a result, I had to make some substitutions.  I replaced the pheasant and quail with chicken thighs (you want dark meat that will more closely match the flavor of pheasant).  Duck meat would be an even better substitute, if you can find it.  I was unable to find Cajun smoked sausage, so I just added more andouille sausage instead.  Lastly, I was actually able to find Kitchen Bouquet (a browning and seasoning sauce found in the gravy products section at the market), but if you are unable to you can substitute this with worcestershire sauce.

I also want to discuss the dark roux with you.  This is the most important part of gumbo; and without a good, dark roux you just don’t have gumbo.  The dark roux gives the gumbo it’s color and rich flavor.  To achieve it, you must be patient—cooking it slowly over low heat and mixing constantly.  Once it reaches a deep, reddish brown color, it is ready.  Go here to see the progression of colors.  After you remove it from the heat it will then continue to darken to a rich brown the color of dark chocolate.  Be sure to taste it to ensure that it is not bitter or burned.  If it is, well, it’s back to the stove you go to make a new batch.

So here is the adapted recipe, using my substitutes to make it more user friendly (for the original recipe, you can find it here).  I also halved the recipe, but for a family you may want to double it back since this does take time to make and it would be nice to have for another meal.  Note that this tastes even better if you let it sit overnight refrigerated.  The recipe below makes 2.5 quarts.

  • 2 ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 ½ tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp corn oil
  • 6 oz andouille sausage, sliced into ¼ inch thick circles
  • 1/3 cup coarsely diced onion
  • ¼ cup coarsely diced bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely diced celery
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed (or 2 large skinless duck breasts)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 ¼ quarts concentrated chicken stock (you can start with 1 ¾ quarts and boil it down to 1 ¼ quarts to make it concentrated, or add a bouillon cube)
  • 1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet (or worchestershire sauce)
  • 2 dashes Tabasco
  • 1 ½ tbsp sliced green onion tops
  1. In a small skillet over medium low heat, add the butter and flour.  Stir constantly and thoroughly as color slowly depends in color and reaches a dark, reddish brown.  This process should take at the very least 20 minutes (mine took 40 minutes).  Remove from heat and pour into a container.  Set aside.  The color will continue to deepen to a dark, chocolate brown.  (Tidbit: You can make larger portions and freeze what you don’t need as a short cut for your next gumbo.)

    Left: Dark, reddish brown when finished on stove; Right: Dark, chocolate brown after removed from heat

  2. Heat corn oil to hot and maintain heat in a four-quart cast-iron or other heavy pot over medium-low heat.
  3. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, brown andouille sausage, then add to oil in the cast-iron pot. Repeat process with onion, bell pepper and celery, then chicken (or duck), sautéing each ingredient individually and transferring each ingredient to the cast-iron pot as it is browned.
  4. Add the paprika, black pepper, cayenne and bay leaf to the pot and stir. Mix in stock. Stir in roux until blended.
  5. Bring to a boil and cook 40 minutes, stirring attentively.
  6. Add Kitchen Bouquet (or worchestershire sauce), Tabasco and green onions and stir well. Simmer 5 minutes longer. 
  7. Pull out chicken (or duck) and with tongs and a fork (the meat will be too hot to handle with your fingers), shred the meat and add it back to the gumbo and mix.
  8. Serve hot alone or with white rice.

Cheers!

Old Bay Steamed Shrimp

May 11, 2010

Now that the weather is finally warming up, all I can think about is seafood.  I’m craving it immensely.  I’m thinking about boiled crawfish and po’ boys in New Orleans, peel and eat shrimp at the beach, oysters at a martini bar, lobster rolls from Maine…well, you get the idea.

Last weekend I was particularly longing for peel and eat shrimp, which reminds me of trips to Destin, FL on the Gulf of Mexico growing up.  This time of year takes me back to when I was in school in the years of yonder down in Alabama.  I recall knowing at this time that only weeks separated me from the inevitable beach trip to mark the start of summer.  The last day of school always had cars waiting outside filled with beach gear ready to head strait down.  I also loved that most everyone went to the same beach, so it was hard to not run into friends from home—especially when you headed to my favorite beach restaurant, The Back Porch, in Destin.  Everyone flocked here for the awesome seafood and fun atmosphere.

One of my favorite dishes to get at the beach restaurants like The Back Porch is peel and eat shrimp.  As I perused The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, I spotted some fresh shrimp brought strait up from the Gulf of Mexico.  Well, I’ll be damned—it was meant to be!  So of course I ordered up some of those shrimp, but now what?  I hadn’t made peel and eat shrimp before so I walked around the store to see if they had Zatarain’s Shrimp and Crab Boil seasoning (a New Orleans staple).  No such luck.  I then spotted Old Bay Seasoning, which screams summer to me.  Mmm…this could take me somewhere.  Sure enough, they had a simple recipe on the container for steaming shrimp.  Again, it was meant to be.

One of the things I particularly like about this recipe is just how quick it is to make.  I can have this entire meal made in 10 minutes from start to finish.  Not to mention, I love the Old Bay seasoned sauce that the dish ends with.  I poured some into my bowl just to make sure the shrimp could hold as much as possible with each bite.  With a nice glass of dry white wine, this makes the perfect summer meal.

So here you go.  You can of course also find this recipe on the Old Bay Seasoning container.  This makes enough for 2 servings.

  • 2 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 bay leaves (my own addition)
  • 1 lb shrimp, in shells
  1. In saucepan, combine first three ingredients and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the shrimp and stir gently.
  3. Cover and steam until tender, about 3-5 minutes. (Make sure you do not overcook the shrimp or they will get tough.)
  4. Serve, pouring some of the sauce over the shrimp if you desire.

Cheers!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

April 29, 2010

Before I get started, a friend of mine suggested that I point out my Email Subscription feature for The Pearl Onion.  If you would like to receive emails when new posts are available, then go to the Email Subscription at the top of the right hand column of my blog.  Here you can sign-up for emails.  A confirmation email will be sent to the address you provide.  It may go to your spam folder, so make sure you find it to confirm your subscription.  Of course your email address will not be used for any other purpose!

The Pearl Onion also has a RSS Feed feature that you can find under the Email Subscription section.  In lieu of emails, you can add a bookmark for The Pearl Onion to your web browser tool bar or a folder.  When you click on the bookmark, it will show you the most recent posts and an icon next to each that will indicate if you have read them.  Personally, this is my preferred method of keeping up with my favorite blogs.

Okay, shall we move onto a pie…perhaps a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie that will blow you away?  I made this for a recent dinner party, and it received rave reviews!  Rhubarb is in season now so it is time to take advantage of this bitter yet refreshing item.  To balance out the bitterness, you most often find it used in desserts where the sugar sweetens it.  Finding that right balance can be difficult, but this recipe is right on the mark.  The addition of the lemon juice and orange zest adds an extra freshness that really makes a difference too.

I found this recipe at Cook’s Illustrated, who diligently tests their recipes under numerous methods to find just the right way to make a perfect dish.  For this reason, I am very trusting of their recipes and felt confident enough to bake this pie for the first time for my dinner party.  I did make one change though—I skipped making the pie crust from scratch and instead bought a refrigerated version.  I’d like to tackle their pie crust in the future, but had enough other items to prepare for the dinner and didn’t want to overdo it.  Oh, and the recipe calls for adding bits of butter to the top of the filling before laying the pastry over it.  I skipped this step.

So here is the recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated:

  • 3 cups fresh, sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups fresh trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (see note below about how to trim)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  • Pie crust 12 inch bottom and 10 inch top (either freshly made or store bought)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss strawberries and rhubarb with sugar, lemon juice and orange zest, vanilla extract, and tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the 12 inch bottom pastry into a 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, leaving dough that overhangs the lip in place.
  4. Pour fruit mixture, including juices, into pie shell.
  5. Lay the 10 inch top pastry over the fruit. Trim top and bottom dough edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute dough in your own fashion, or press with fork tines to seal.
  6. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top to allow steam to escape.
  7. Place pie on baking sheet; bake until top crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
  8. Transfer pie to wire rack; let cool to almost room temperature so juices have time to thicken, from 1 to 2 hours.

How to trim rhubarb

Take a paring knife and cut almost through the end of the rhubarb without hitting the skin on the other side.  Then pull downwards so that the skin pulls away from the stalk.  Repeat for the other sides.

Cheers!

Pike Place Market: Seattle, WA

April 25, 2010

I recently came back from a trip visiting friends in Seattle, WA.  Have any of you been?  It’s such a beautiful city surrounded by bodies of water and snow capped mountains in the distance.  For this New York City girl, it was such a treat to even just breath in all that fresh air, see my friends’ place that was actually spacious (like they have multiple rooms!), and even get to ride in a car!  I also loved all the little neighborhoods that help make the city feel not so big.

Seattle is also a great city to visit for us foodies.  My friends, O’Hara and Christina, did a fabulous job taking me all around to the various restaurants that they love.  O’Hara also took me to Pike Place Market, which was my absolute favorite foodie stop.  This is one of the oldest continuing farmers’ markets in the country, which started in 1907.  It sits on Seattle’s waterfront and includes all sorts of very worthy food vendors (and some crafts, if you are into that sort of thing).  Here we took a food tour with Savor Seattle Food Tours, which I definitely recommend.  The tour offers the historical aspect, but more importantly it allows you to have little tastings of food at a variety of the best known food stalls—such a treat!  And they don’t skimp on the food.  By the end of the tour, I could hardly eat another bite (though of course I did).

Our first stop was Daily Dozen Doughnuts.  Now, I’m not a huge doughnut person unless the doughnut is one of Krispy Kreme’s light-as-air creations.  However, these were unbelievably delicious and reminded me more of a beignet (which I am sucker of).  They were rich with flavor and sweetness.  I’m about to start drooling, so let’s move on.

We then headed to MarketSpice, which as the name suggests, specializes in all sorts of spices.  They have been around for almost 100 years now, so clearly they know what they are doing.  They have all the normal seasonings you would expect but also some unique ones too.  I was particularly excited about their smoke infused salts.  The salt is simply prepared by putting sea salt in a tunnel and running smoke through it until the salt absorbs the flavor.  I purchased a Applewood Smoked Salt, and just used it on some hor d’oeuvres at a dinner party last weekend.  I served tomato and fresh mozzarella on toasted french bread and finished it with this salt.  The salt is super pungent so a little adds a lot of flavor.

They are also well-known for their teas, particularly one (I think they just call it their MarketSpice tea) with cinnamon oil, cloves, and orange.  Like the salt, this tea is also incredibly potent so much that the packaged teas come in a special bag that help contain the scent.  I bought some of this too and find that it is the perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon.  If you would like to try either of these or any other their other products, you can order it online.Close to MarketSpice is the famous Pike Place Fish.  They are known for throwing the huge fillets of fish when an order has been made.  They also of course have a good selection of fish.  In addition to the variety of fresh fish, they also have some smoked salmon that they specialize in.  We were able to sample the Alderwood Smoked Salmon and the Alderwood Smoked Salmon with Garlic and Pepper.  Both are actually baked as they are smoked so that the texture is more dry than lox.  I preferred the regular one, but the garlic and pepper salmon was uniquely sweet.  Yes, I got some of this too.

The stops above were my favorites, but the rest of the tour was still pretty exciting.  We stopped by Frank’s Quality Produce, where we had samples of an apple and grapes.  I kid you not, the grapes were the best I have ever had.  They were a type that I haven’t seen here in NYC.  Following this stop, we went to Pike Place Chowder, who has won numerous awards for their chowder and seafood bisque.  We were able to taste each, and I could understand why they have won country-wide awards.

After sipping our chowder, we headed to Chukar Cherries.  We learned about how the business started and then we were able to try an assortment of their treats.  My favorite part about this stop was that we stood behind the counter looking out over the customers.  I know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy, but I like experiencing different perspectives.Across from here we could see one of the numerous flower stalls in the market.  With bouquets for $10, there is no excuse to not buy flowers for that special someone!We then headed over to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, where we were treated to their famous cheese as well as their mac and cheese.  This was also a favorite stop for me.  In addition to the yummy bites, we were able to see how they make the cheese.

Piroshky-Piroshky was our next stop.  As the name suggests, they specialize in piroshky, a Russian treat.  Honestly, by this point I was so stuffed form the prior treats that I only had the tiniest of bites, but from I could taste it was a good, freshly baked dough filled with a yummy filling.The last stop on the tour was Etta’s Seafood Restaurant, a Tom Douglas restaurant.  Here we were treated to little crab cakes.  I am quite particular about crab cakes, but these were out of this world.  When there were a couple samples left over the guides asked if anyone wanted a second, as the others politely pretended they were okay, I shamelessly jumped up grabbing another.  Suckers.Now the tour was over, but O’Hara had one more stop for me.  We headed to Steelhead Diner, a restaurant nestled in the market with a beautiful view of the water.  The main draw—Flash Fried Beecher’s Cheese Curds.  Yup.  This puts any other fried cheese sticks out there to shame.  They were amazing, especially with a good local IPA beer on tap.  Perfection.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour!  This market was lots of fun to walk around, so if you are ever in Seattle I do hope you drop by.

Cheers!

Rustic Shrimp Bisque

April 18, 2010

One morning as I was commuting to work and listening to a podcast of NPR’s The Splendid Table, Melissa Clark was on discussing a shrimp bisque that sounded phenomenal.  My favorite part about the recipe was that she talked about using the shells of the shrimp to help create the broth.  I also loved that despite being a bisque, it actually doesn’t include any cream.  The heartiness is instead derived from the use of rice.  I love bisque but often find that they are too rich for me, so I was quite anxious to make this.

Despite the fact that my tiny apartment stunk of shrimp for a week after making this bisque (I have no exhaust fan), I loved it.  Like I really, really loved this and will definitely be making it again.  It was filled with oodles of flavor.  The fennel and pernon (I actually substituted this with star anise) is what really made it for me adding a nice depth to the shrimp flavor, which itself was intensified with the use of the shrimp shells.  Also, as expected, the rice made it taste rich and hearty without over doing it.

As noted above this recipe calls for pernon, which is a licorice flavored liquor.  I had read on the internet that a good substitute is grinding up some anise and letting it sit in a little vodka overnight.  After straining the vodka, it should have the same effect as pernon.  Since I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I instead dropped a star anise into the bisque when it was cooking and left it there for about 10 minutes before retrieving.  You can also just skip this step alltogether.

I found that at the end, my bisque was way too dry.  If you run into this as well, just add warm water until it reaches the consistency you want.

So here is the recipe adapted from Melissa Clark’s.  The ingredients are all the same, but I made a couple small changes to the instructions.  This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

  • 1 lb medium or large shrimp, shelled, shells reserved
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod, optional, plus additional for serving
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 large leeks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste.
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, cook shrimp shells in 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until lightly browned in spots, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add wine and brandy and Pernod if using, and boil until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Add 6 cups of water and the thyme and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  4. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing on the shells before discarding them.
  5. Reduce the heat on the stove to medium.  In the same pot, melt another 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the shrimp and sauté until they are pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending on size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl.
  6. Increase heat to medium high and add remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pot with the celery, leeks, garlic, and fennel and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the rice, tomato paste, cayenne, and remaining salt and sauté for 2 minutes.  Mix well ensuring that the tomato paste deepens in color.
  8. Add shrimp stock and with a wooden spoon or whisk scrape fond off the bottom of the pot and stir.  Lower heat to a simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
  9. Set aside 4 to 6 nice shrimp and stir the remainder into bisque; let cook for 2 minutes.
  10. Working in batches, pour the bisque into a blender (Use caution when blending hot liquids or add a couple of ice cubes to the blender while blending.  I used a Cuisinart and left the lid for the “pour hole” open so that the steam could escape), then return to the pot. Or, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can puree the soup to be as smooth or chunky as you like.  If needed, add warm water to reach desired consistency.
  11. Stir in the lemon juice and additional salt to taste. Reheat if necessary before serving.
  12. Garnish each bowl with a shrimp, a drizzle of Pernod if desired, and a piece of fennel frond.

Cheers!

Memories and Dragon Fruit

April 2, 2010

Lately I have been really missing my trip to India and Southeast Asia.  I miss the excitement of wandering around foreign cities and learning about cultures that were so new to me.  I miss being carefree and having my greatest stress be choosing what to do with my day.  I miss meeting new friends from all over the world and the spontaneity of experiences.  I just really miss it all.

I have always loved learning about other cultures, but there is just something that is so special when you have the chance to see the cultures in person.  It relaxes me to be in a place that is so foreign and so far away from home.  It makes me feel irrelevant in the world in a positive way.  In reality I am really just a little speck in this great, huge world of people.  This thought makes me feel like I should have nothing to stress about because really my life is so insignificant in the whole grand scheme of things.  We all have bad days, we all have good days.  It’s just how the world turns.

Although I am hugely homesick from my travels, I am feeling more and more grateful for living in New York.  I pretty much have always loved living here, but I am now opening my eyes to parts of the city that I had overlooked previously.  How lucky am I that I live in a city that is perhaps one of the most diverse in the world?

I remember when I landed at the airport returning from my travels, tears just streamed from eyes.  My adventure was over.  No more excitement.  I took the subway home and as I sulked an older African man boarded with his drums.  He had a great big smile and an aura that exuded happiness.  He proceeded to sing upbeat songs for the passengers and talk to everyone in between lines.  As much of a challenge that it was, he managed to cheer me up.  Hey, it wasn’t Asia but this wasn’t Alabama either.  I just needed to open my eyes and see that there are adventures waiting to be experienced here too.

Chinatown (NYC), dim sum

Recently I met up with friends in Chinatown for dim sum at Jing Fong, and after lunch I headed out on my own and spent some time roaming around Chinatown.  Once I left the tourist infested Canal street region, I found myself on little streets that made me feel like I was in a whole other country.  China to be exact.

It felt so good to explore this area and wander into the various stores where there were no tourists and the only language I heard spoken was Chinese.  Of course my favorite places were the food shops.  The smells, the labels filled with Chinese writing, the interesting products that seem so foreign to me…it was so fun to see!  I also managed to pick up some items that I had learned about in the last issue of Saveur.

I was also really impressed by the produce in the markets.  They had vegetables that I have never seen before, but my favorite find was seeing the Dragon fruit.  This was all over Vietnam and Thailand when I was there.  I clearly remember the first time I ate it.  I was in Halong Bay beginning a two-day cruise on a traditional junk boat with about 10 others.  Some of us had just been on the roof top of the boat soaking in the views and talking about how excited we were to be experiencing this gorgeous scenery.  We were literally giddy with excitement.  We drank local beers and listened Moby’s “Porcelain” on some little speakers that an English guy brought.  We then headed down to the main floor for a fresh seafood lunch and for dessert dragon fruit was served.

I had seen this odd yet beautiful looking fruit in the markets back in Hanoi so I was so excited to finally try it.  It was just so foreign to me.  The outside is pretty funky looking—vivid, pink skin with curved, green spikes jetting out.  After cutting open this fruit, I could see that the inside is equally interesting—white with black seeds sprinkled throughout it.  The taste was even foreign to me.  I expected it to be sweeter, but it was actually almost savory with just a hint of sweetness.  The texture was like a dense watermelon.  I found it so refreshing.

So back in Chinatown I of course I had to buy it.  I’ve been eating it as I write this and as you can tell, it has helped bring back a lot of the memories.  Just like a song can take you back to a specific time and memory, food can as well for me.  I find it quite poetic that Moby’s “Porcelain” just played in my random selection of music that I am listening to.

Cheers.

Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Onions)

March 21, 2010

Wow, I can’t get over how it felt like just yesterday I was wandering around New York’s winter wonderland, and today it is a gorgeous Spring day.  I love this time of year.  The restaurants roll out their tables to the sidewalks as New Yorkers gravitate to this much needed outdoor time.  The parks fill up with picnickers and readers, and the dogs run around with an extra spring in their step.  The city literally wakens up this time of year.  I love it!

Yesterday I headed down to the Strand to pick up a summer reading book then headed to Union Square park where I spent the afternoon reading with about 500 of my fellow neighbors.  I am still a little unsure about the book I chose–The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, any of you know it and have an opinion?–but I could not have been more content.  Within listening distance a man sang on his guitar, dogs walk by excitedly with their owners as they headed to the dog park, and groups of friends came and went around me sharing their excitement of the day.  Meanwhile, being Saturday, the Union Square Farmers’ Market was bustling on the side so after a while I headed there to check it out.

I recently started getting Saveur magazine, which I am a bit obsessed with.  Okay, really obsessed with.  My last issue came this past week and within two days I had already read every single word.  My favorite article was one about the simplicity of classic Roman dishes.  I already indulged in one of the dishes on Friday evening with a friend at a sidewalk Italian cafe, but my yearning to try more had not yet been satisfied.  As I perused the farmers’ market, I spotted the cipolline onions and recalled a recipe that Saveur had featured in this article.  Coupled with the fact that I love the sweetness of cipolline onions, it was the perfect buy.

First this recipe gently sautes the cipolline onions.  You then add balsamic vinegar with some sugar and raisins and let it reduce to a divine syrupy consistency.   The dish is pretty easy to make and would be oh so good with a nice meat dish.  I’m thinking pork or chicken would be perfect with it.  Me?  Oh, I had this as my dinner in itself.

I did find that when I was sauteing the onions, the oil spit a lot.  So I suggest that you use a splatter screen to cover the skillet, if possible.  Also, my cipollines were a bit large so the cooking time was longer.  Just use your judgment and cook them until they have that nice golden look to them.  If they appear to be cooking too fast, just lower the heat.  Personally I think the slower they cook, the better since this helps the sugars in the onion to develop better.  Lastly, for the raisins I used golden ones since I felt they would be more aesthetically pleasing in the dish, but really any color will work.

So here is the recipe from Saveur magazine.  This serves 4-6 people.

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs cipolline or pearl onions, peeled
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  1. Put raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water.  Let them sit for 30 minutes and then drain.
  2. In a 12″ skillet (mine was 10″, which was just as good) over medium high heat add the olive oil and onions.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
  3. Pour or spoon out the excess oil.  Add the raisins, vinegar and sugar.  Let reduce until the vinegar reaches a thick sauce consistency.  This should take about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add salt to taste and serve.

Cheers!

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