Braised onions with no frills, no fuss.
Sometimes less is more.
Just because it is a cliché, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We (or at least I) do tend to complicate food.
I am past the stage of :
‘Turn on the cooker before taking off coat, prepare tomorrow’s packed lunches while tonight’s dinner is cooking, fend off requests for homework help, answer the phone, flip through the post, arbitrate fight before it turns into a trip to A & E (ER in America), feed the cats . . . . . . .
Now, I potter in the kitchen while I’m cooking supper. I stir when it is not needed. I think I might add a little ‘something’ to lift the taste.
Or I get immersed in a book till the warning smell of a dry pan calls me back to reality.
I think I needed James Beard to set me back on track for a more minimal attitude to cooking. In his book, Beard on Pasta, published in 1985 and sadly, so far as I can tell, out of print, he says of this recipe:
“Long-cooked onions have a naturally sweet taste. This is a substantial sauce, and I like to serve it with a pasta that has body, something like bows or wagon wheels or wide ribbons or macaroni.”
He cooks them with no garlic, no salt, no fuss.
And that’s what we had for lunch yesterday. I used those little pasta shells known as Conchiglie, simply because I had more of those than any other shape.
I was very restrained. I didn’t add any extras, even though my fingers kept straying towards the garlic, the salt, the balsamic vinegar, and the pepper.
I did sin slightly by adding a shallot as well as three onions. I also added a slug of oil with the butter to stop it burning.
But I was really good at leaving the pan alone and cooking the onions really slowly with a lid on to hold in the moisture.
The result was a very pale, sweet and tender pan of onions.
So, how was it?
Very nice, actually. In fact the only change I would make next time would be to remove something rather than add!
Beard calls for 1 tablespoon of sugar, I put in 1/2 a tablespoon. It would be better with even less – if fact, when it comes round again (which it will), I may well not put any in.
Beard also called for 1/4 cup of Madeira – No Madeira and no opened white wine so I didn’t bother. Perhaps I’ll try it next time.
The only other criticism is that it is so bland in appearance I think it needs a garnish of chopped herbs.
Preparation time : 10 min
Cooking time : 1 hour (but you could cook the onions ahead)
Difficulty? : Easy
Freezing? : I would freeze the onions but not the pasta
Portions : 2
- 56g (2oz) of butter
- A splash of oil
- 3 medium onions, peeled, halved and sliced about ¼ inch (13mm, please don’t measure this!) thick
- 1/2 tablespoon of sugar (optional – I would leave it out next time)
- 170g (6oz). hot cooked pasta, drained
- 1/4 cup (60ml) white wine or Madeira (optional)
- Salt for seasoning.
- Grated Parmesan or other hard cheese, for serving.
Personally, I would garnish with a little chopped herbs another time – parsley, oregano?
- In a large (12-inch / 30cm) frying pan (skillet), warm the butter and oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soften.
- Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat to lowestsetting and cook the onions very gently for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the Madeira or wine (if using), cook for a couple of minutes to combine.
- Add the pasta to the pan. Using two large spoons, toss the pasta well with the sauce.
- Serve with a sprinkling of salt and some grated cheese.