Harumph. How many times have I started a post with that word, or at least implied it? Way too many to count I’m sure. Today’s Glazed Cipollini Onions came about to illustrate a pet peeve of mine. The holidays are the perfect time to discuss this pet peeve because the holidays are filled with special meals. Meals we prepare at home for family and meals we eat out at parties and at restaurants. It doesn’t seem like there’s much room for a harumph when it comes to discussing the holidays. After all they’re the most wonderful time of the year – especially for eaters, right?
Take the Thanksgiving turkey as an example. Organic? Heritage? Or something that grew up in the freezer case of your Piggly-Wiggly. It doesn’t matter if the bird is highbrow or lowbrow – it’s easy to get lost in our elaborate plans for the centerpiece of a holiday meal. So unless you want me to start another post with the word harumph promise me you’ll give the side dishes just as much love as you do the bird. Then again, you’re not really the party I need to be taking this harumph to are you? If you bother to read food blogs you probably think about the side dishes just as much as I do – of course you do.
Besides I’m not just picking on home cooks. What I’m trying to say is too many times I’m disappointed with restaurant side dishes. Even damn good restaurants. My disappointment often comes from the lack of detail or attention given to some small (unimportant?) element of the meal. Which I know sounds like I’m just being impossibly picky. But it’s so prevalent I have to say something. Even in some of my favorite restaurants some parts of the meal can be treated as an afterthought. The victim is usually the side dish and most always a vegetable.
Poor damn things. Vegetables are truly one of God’s greatest works of art. The perfect gift. So beware a menu that says “fresh steamed vegetables” they’re likely to disappoint. Too many times this simple side dish tastes watery. How do they get vegetables to loose so much flavor and so much texture?
In my house the traditional way to make vegetable side dishes memorable is through glazing. This year my Thanksgiving table will feature Glazed Cipollini Onions. My mother was an expert at this method. Therefore, glazed vegetables have come to be one of my must have holiday side dishes.. It seems such a simple preparation, and it has very few ingredients. You’d think more restaurants would teach somebody on their line how to perfect it.
Glazed Cipollini Onions
Well, somebody has and of course it’s Thomas Keller.
Which I realize implies that Glazed Cipollini Onions are difficult to prepare. In truth it takes no special skills to glaze vegetables, but the process cannot be rushed.
If you’ve tried to swallow certain versions of glazed carrots, then you know what I’m talking about. You cannot simply “candy” them with butter and sugar, or egads – reheat boiled carrots in reconstituted orange juice. I know it’s hard to believe but some people (at restaurants) simply toss God’s great gift into boiling water and hope for the best. Imagine all that flavor they’re pouring down the drain. It should be a crime. In fact I’m writing a letter to the Mayor as soon as I’m finished here.
That’s because perfectly glazed vegetables are a marvel to behold. Beautiful. Shiny. Colorful. You can dress them up with many flavors, but they don’t need the extra pizzazz to be incredible. Glazing is such a tremendous technique. It’s a wonder more people don’t practice this method. I’ve put some effort into memorizing Thomas Keller’s method of glazing vegetables. It works a particularly well with Cipollini Onions. In Keller’s words, “When cooked carefully, these are the silkiest, sweetest onions. I look for onions that are no larger than 1 1/2‑inches in diameter. If you can only find larger ones, or ones that are irregularly sized, the outer leaves of the onion can be removed and used for another purpose so that the onions are consistent in size.”
So from now on I’ll save all my harumphs for restaurants – because I know you know better. GREG
I was supplied the onions for these Glazed Cipollini Onions by Frieda’s produce. All opinions are my own.