We hold tightly to the conviction that daily, year-round consumption of onions is not only a health benefit, but also an easy way to improve the flavor profile of the foods we prepare. Between the regular onions we pack throughout the season, to the shallots in the last box to this week’s cipollini onions, I’d say we’ve got you covered on all fronts!
There are many situations where you might use these three alliums interchangeably, however the last thing we want to do is lump these three distinct culinary ingredients into an undifferentiated mass. So, here goes a brief crash course on their unique attributes. To begin, yellow and red storage onions are just that—ideally suited to keep through the long winter. Whether you sauté them along with beef or mushrooms or feature them in their own French onion soup, these onions will be your workhorses in the kitchen.
Shallots, which were included in your first extended season box, have been awarded a more fanciful designation. Shallots have long been recognized as having a rather delicate flavor and, when used raw, they bring a subtle pungency to a dish. When cooked, however, shallots become rich and sweet tasting.
Finally, lets talk about those dark red cipollini onions. Of Italian decent, cipollini onions appear flattened and saucer-like. They are known for being an excellent onion for caramelizing and roasting, as both cooking procedures develop their natural sugars. One of my favorite destinations for these onions is whole roasted in a balsamic glaze. Cipollini onions can be a bit of a challenge to peel, but don’t worry…there’s a trick. Using a paring knife, trim away the roots just enough to take a thin layer off the base of the onion and mark the base with a very shallow “X” cut. Trim the neck part of the opposite side. Boil a pot of water and drop the onions in the water for just a few minutes. Drain off the hot water and rinse with cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, just pop the skins off.
All of these alliums will keep longer if stored in the right environment—typically, dry and dark is ideal, with good airflow. If stored properly, onions and shallots will store for several months.
Roasted Cipollini Onions with Sherry Vinegar
Yield: 4 servings
1 ½ pounds whole cipollini onions
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsps sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the cipollini onions until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool under cold running water. Trim and peel the onions and pat dry.
- Transfer the onions to a large ovenproof skillet and stir in the olive oil, thyme leaves, sugar and ¼ cup of the sherry vinegar. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cover the skillet with foil and roast the onions in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until soft. Remove the foil and roast the onions for about 10 minutes, basting a few times with the juices, until lightly glazed.
- Transfer the skillet to the stove. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and stir over moderate heat until the onions are richly glazed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and plenty of pepper and serve.
NOTE: The glazed onions can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.
Recipe borrowed from foodandwine.com. It was originally published in March 2009 and was contributed by Matt Molina.