[53] Port-Braised Cipollini Onions

Cover of Simply Organic, by Jesse Ziff Cool

Bill is actually the person who introduced me to this UFO-shaped onion. We were shopping at “Green City Market”:http://www.chicagogreencitymarket.org/ this past winter, and saw some at the “Nichols Family Farm”:http://www.nicholsfarm.com/ booth. Bill was incredibly enthusiastic about cooking some of these guys up. So, many months later, it’s only appropriate that we make a delicious recipe based on these for his birthday.

I will say that the one of the guys at the booth, upon selling me these onions, made a bit of a snerking laugh and said, “Enjoy peeling those.” He’s right. Cipollinis are delicious, but a total pain to peel.

h2. Ingredients

1 c ruby port
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 c vegetable or chicken broth (We used chicken, since we have gobs of it in the freezer.)

8 oz cipollini or other small onions (As you can imagine, we used cipollinis.)

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch of red-pepper flakes (Optional)

h2. Instructions

Combine the port, thyme and 1/2 c of the broth in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes (or until the onions are very soft). Add the remaining 1/2 c of broth when all of the liquid evaporates.

When the onions are cooked, you should have about 1/4 c of reduced sauce. If you have more, uncover & simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 c. Then add the brown sugar , butter, salt, and pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

Overall, this was a very straightforward recipe. I appreciated that immensely, because Bill’s birthday was the day of four recipes (a.k.a. The Day of Many Dishes).

My biggest suggestion for cooking this recipe is to use truly tiny cipollini onions or pearl onions. Our farmer had onions with a diameter between 1/2″ and 4″ for sale. While the tinier ones are much harder to peel, you needn’t chop them up to get the appropriate “side dish” bite-sized bits. And, frankly, I think there’s something more aesthetically pleasing about a ton of tiny onions on the plate as opposed to chunks of larger onion bits. I can’t explain it, but there you go.

Also, because our guests had arrived and dinner needed to be on the table, I did not add the second half cup of broth. That definitely impacted the taste (as explained below).

h3. Consumption

Well, these onions were tasty, but almost overwhelmingly port-flavored in my opinion. No doubt this is the result of the lack of broth dilution near the end. Asking Bill and Rob, who also ate these things, there’s an overwhelming consensus that “overwhelmingly porty” is an accurate description of what we ate.

I’d say that, actually, just leaving the onions for 30 minutes (as if it were rice) was not the way to do it. I suspect that occasionally checking on it would have been the way to go, and might have resulted in adding the second half cup of broth earlier. We might have had time to do it, had I read the directions that way, rather than, cover and ignore for 30 minutes.

Bill, Rob, and I all agree that, overall, these onions were an excellent bet and a nice birthday dinner side dish. However, the port truly did need a bit of thinning. So make these, but make sure you either leave time to add that second bit of broth at the end, or hover more to add it in the middle of the 30 minute cook.

And definitely get tiny onions. More fun and more tasty.