The thought of eating a whole onion usually brings to mind a late-eightes/early-ninties sitcom trope: biting into a a fresh one (sometimes without removing the skin) to make one’s breath overly pungent, then getting into a foe’s face and “overwhelming” them with the smell. I know it was a gag on Full House at least once, and if it happened there, I’m sure it’s been used elsewhere. I always felt this was a bit unfair to the onion, though I am one who likes to pile them high on my hoagies or on a bagel with lots of lox, so perhaps I’m the odd one out in liking how a fresh, crisp onion tastes.
Needless to say, when I saw a recipe for baked onions in Autumn in Piemonte, I knew that we’d have to give these a try. Making the onion the star of a dish, rather than acting only as an aromatic, was a challenge that was just begging me to take it on–and so we did. There’s not much to the dish: butter, oil, thyme, garlic, a little crushed red pepper, and red onions (we ended up with 4), quartered nearly the entire way down to the root. While baking them certainly mollified the pungency of the onions, we were still left with a satisfying crunch as we dove into them. It was a strange dish, to be sure–but one we will definitely try again.
The lamb ragu was from another dinner where we made far too much for far too few people, and as a result we were left with a tidy sum to use up as leftovers. Fortunately, it’s one of those sauces that only gets better with age, and it paired well with veal cutlets we had bought during a trip to Ferraro’s Foods, a local meat market known for its huge selection and low prices. Michael made a simple pan sauce with the drippings along with some sage, butter and white wine–though he claims it wasn’t his best effort, I still say it was really, really good.
The real lesson from this meal, though, is to never dismiss any ingredient as a mere supporting player–you may surprise yourself by how good it tastes when prepared well. Cin cin!