Onions are shifty. Acrid and sulphurous when raw, add a little heat to breakdown the cell walls and release those pungent irritants and they become mild and pleasantly sweet. Add some time to get the Maillard and caramelization processes going and they become sugar bombs sweet enough to make a bitter man cry.
But caramelized onions are so sweet they are typically used only as condiments or a side dish. A plate full of caramelized onions will be cloying and tiresome. Is there a way to use them as the star of the show?
We need something to absorb their flavor. Pasta will do and linguine should blend nicely with the long strands of onion. But soft pasta and even softer onions will not have much texture. Adding some crunchy breadcrumbs will give you something the chew on. But how do we provide some balance for the excessive sweetness? The solution is the Mediterranean condiment gremolata, a combination of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. The grassy flavor of the parsley and the sharp, citrus notes of the lemon zest provide a refreshing contrast to the saccharine onions. Add some Parmesan-Reggiano to bring out the nutty dimension of the caramelized onions and we have a well-balanced dish featuring the onions as the star.
Serve as a side dish or main dish
Given the sweetness of the onions, a good, off-dry Reisling from the Mosel would pair well.
Recipe below the fold.
Recipe: Linguine w/Caramelized Onions and Gremolata
3 lbs yellow onions
1 tblspn Olive oil
1 tblspn butter
1/2 tspn salt
salt and pepper
For the Gremolata
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablspn butter
salt to taste
1 lb. Linguine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan-reggiano cheese
Instructions for Onion:
1. Heat butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add onions and salt and stir to coat the onions with oil.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften.
4. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deeply browned and slightly sticky. This should take about 45 minutes. Be careful not to burn the onions. Raise heat slightly if onions are not browning. You will have to stir more often towards the end of the cooking time. If onions stick to the pan, stir them in and continue cooking.
5. Season with pepper
Meanwhile make the Gremolata:
6. Remove peel from lemons using a vegetable peeler, being careful not to include too much white pith.
7. Mince the lemon peel. Reserve in small bowl.
8. Add parsley and garlic to bowl and mix thoroughly.
9. Melt butter in another frying pan over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and salt to taste; reduce heat to medium low.
10. Cook bread crumbs stirring occasionally until bread crumbs are brown. (They can also be baked in the oven)
Follow package instructions for linguine.
11. When pasta is cooked al dente, drain
12.Place pasta on plates, cover pasta with a layer of caramelized onions divided equally among the plates
13. Add a layer of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup per plate. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese over top of the bread crumbs.
14 Finally add a layer of gremolata, 2 tablespoons per plate, on top.
Serve passing additional gremolata for those who want more.