I knew as soon as I saw the recipe selection that I’d want to have these onions with roasted chicken. We’ve never balked at roasting whole birds for just ourselves, but this past weekend afforded the perfect opportunity to have a few less leftovers as we’d planned to have another couple over for dinner on Sunday. And really, what could be better for a casual dinner party than roasted chicken and veggies?
We rounded out the meal with some more of those perfect crispy roasted potatoes and a quick gravy made from the chicken drippings, and if it wasn’t the healthiest meal we’ve ever made, it was certainly one of the tastiest.
The onions themselves really couldn’t be simpler, and for once I actually really stuck to the recipe. My only changes were a mustard substitution and using dry herbs instead of fresh. Otherwise, I followed Ina’s instructions just about to a T. Aren’t you proud of me?
You start with two red onions and one white – mine was an absolute monster, so even with 4 people we ended up with some extras that didn’t get eaten.
Aren’t onions beautiful? Especially the red ones. I just love their color, and the satiny-sheen of their papery outer skins.
You trim off the barest bit of the root end and peel each onion, then slice into thick wedges through the root – this keeps the wedges more-or-less intact when they roast. This was seriously the most difficult part of the recipe, because these were some POTENT onions and I had to walk away at least twice during the prep to keep the fumes from blinding me. Also, my cutting skills are lame and I missed the root on half my wedges, so my onions fell apart more than they probably should have. Ah well.
Next, the vinaigrette. Again, couldn’t be simpler. Whisk together some mustard (I used a slightly sweet, whole grain variety), lemon juice, garlic (grated or minced), salt, pepper, and thyme leaves, then stream in some olive oil while whisking to make a loose emulsion. Dressing done.
The onions get tossed in the vinaigrette (being sure that every onion is completely coated) and, in my case, left to marinate for about an hour while we got some of our other dinner preparations done and got the chicken into the oven.
When the time to cook them rolled around, I lined my brandy-new Cuisinart stainless steel everyday pan (just bought a whole set of these pans and I LOVE them) with aluminum foil and placed the onion wedges in the pan in a single layer. Then the whole thing got shoved in the oven at 400 for about 40 minutes. I found that my onions gave off a LOT of water and didn’t really brown or caramelize just by baking them in the time indicated, so I switched the oven over to broil for the last 5 minutes of cooking time and that did the trick.
When the onions came out of the oven, the extra vinaigrette left in the bowl got poured over top and I tossed them around with some tongs just before serving.
Aside from one person who doesn’t like to just eat onions, I’d say this was a successful dish. For my case, I liked them, certainly, but I’m not entirely sold on the seasoning. I think I would’ve liked to switch out the lemon juice for balsamic vinegar, and added some sugar or honey to play on the onions’ natural sweetness. I’d like to try a different herb, because although I love thyme on onions (and things like mushrooms) I think its getting a little played out. I’m not sure what I’d use in place of it, though. Chives perhaps, or maybe rosemary?
I also wish my onions had caramelized more fully, but all the liquid in the pan kept that from happening. I’m wondering about trying this at a higher heat next time, maybe 425 or even 450, so that they’ll cook and brown faster and won’t have time to get soggy.
At any rate, I do think I’d make these again – they look awfully pretty after they’re cooked, all golden and red and crispy in places, and the big wedges really make a nice presentation alongside roasted chicken on the bone, rustic and pure in flavor and intent. There’s just something about dishes like this, where a solitary ingredient is the star and the seasoning and cooking is simply meant to bring out the best of that ingredient, that really appeals to me. These are onions being everything that onions can be – sweet, pungent, soft and satiny smooth. And I love that kind of cooking. Simple, basic, unadorned and unimposing, just tasty and satisfying and even homey in a way.
I think I’d like to experiment with ways to use them in other dishes. I bet they’d be awfully tasty in a pasta dish with a bit of parmesan cheese, some mushrooms or greens, some olive oil and garlic. Or on a sandwich, thin-sliced steak with swiss cheese, arugala, and an herbed aioli. Or maybe even cut into thinner wedges and stirred into some mashed potatoes for an extra hit of flavor and texture. I think the possibilities for this dish are virtually endless.
So, overall, the recipe needs some tweaking to suit my tastes, but is definitely one I’d go back to.