Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Andrea Chesman: March Market Madness

The e-mail arrived in my mailbox with the title “March Market Madness.” My friend Lauren Slayton had a problem. She is a market gardener, brilliant baker, and superb cook who sells baked goods, soups, and other prepared foods at the Middlebury (Vermont) Farmers’ Market. Like many growers trying to earn a living off the land, she finds it necessary to market “value-added” products. Carrots may be a dime a dozen in the growers’ bins, but Lauren’s creamy Carrot-Ginger Soup is a whole other story. It flies out of the market. Likewise her potpies and rustic tarts, not to mention her breads, brownies, and cookies.

Now that it is March, Lauren’s supply of the vegetables she grew herself has dwindled. So she proposed a contest to help her come up with a locavore-inspired recipe for the next market, with extra brownie points (literally, meaning she would include brownies with the prize), if the recipe included onions or garlic, her last remaining vegetables.

Red onions in a basket

Onions don’t get enough love. They are a workhorse in the kitchen, the backbone flavor note in many, many soups and sauces. I don’t think my mother ever cooked a single dinner that didn’t start with “First, you sauté an onion.” But beyond French onion soup and batter-coated onion rings, there aren’t a lot of classic onion dishes. So Lauren’s market regulars might have been stumped by the challenge. But I wasn’t.

Just that week I watched as my last pint jar of Rosemary Onion Confit was opened and consumed on biscuits with well-aged goat cheese from Twig Farm in Cornwall, Vermont. I knew that onions can be the star of the show, so I sent her a recipe that will appear in The Pickled Pantry, which will be out in June. The recipe makes a delectable, savory-sweet jam or rosemary-scented caramelized onions. I’ve enjoyed it on turkey sandwiches and used it as a filling for a pork tenderloin.

Rosemary-onion confit on a biscuit

Lauren used the confit as a filling for a rustic tart. What will this relish inspire you to make?
Rosemary Onion Confit
Makes 3 pints

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds onions, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Rosemary-onion confit in pan
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low, and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are brown and meltingly tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in the sugar, cider vinegar, rosemary, and soy sauce, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Pack the onion mixture into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, and seal.
  4. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool dry place.
Recipe from The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman ©2012. All rights reserved

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