Market Matters- Maui Onions: The Final Layer

Stack of sweet onion slices

1. The weather has stayed cold and damp.
2. I have one more post to complete my sweeps-week peeling the onion series. But I am out of roasted cipollines.
3. It’s Sunday and I must get a Market Matters post going.

This is quite a daunting set of circumstances.

First I must get myself organized. I always walk to the Hollywood Farmers Market. Come “rain or shine”. It is part of the experience. So I need to put on a warm sweater to guard against the chill. I should consider bringing an umbrella because it may rain. But I’ll really need my hands free to poke and prod the produce.

Technology in hands free merchandise has come a long way, but an umbrella still requires at least one hand. So I think I will settle on a hoodie.

I have got my hoodie on and the hood is in place. As I walk down the hill I am contemplating the final layer for my onion series. I am obviously going to do an onion. But what kind of onion?

I am actually getting giddy at the prospect of examining and comparing hundreds of different onions. I’ll probably be at the market for hours weighing the pros and cons, doing my darndest to get you really great information.

Although, It’s colder than I anticipated and it really is going to rain and soon. Something in me snaps… and I do the unthinkable. I can actually see myself doing it, but I am powerless to stop it.

I walk up to the first stand at the market and grab the first 2 onions I see. I do not poke or prod. I do not compare these onions to the onions over at McGrath Family Farms. I do not taste or sniff or question. As the first fat drop of rain hits me in the face, I quickly pay the man and stick the onions into my bag.

This is not how Sup works. I actually LIKE to obsess about each purchase. I look forward to complicating my choices. I am not a hothouse begonia. A little rain should not scare me from my convictions. But it seems to be doing just that.

At least I have the good sense to ask the Farmer what kinds of onions these are. The answer is Maui.

As I am trudging back up the hill, I seem to be shivering. While I look really great in this hoodie. It is not very waterproof. It is 100% cotton. It is actually drawing in water as fast as it falls from the sky. My hair is wet. My new aviator sunglasses are fogged up. Yes, I wear sunglasses in rainstorms. Especially when they are new!

Muddy water is filling the gutter along Ivar Ave. Muddy water. That can’t be good.

Of course Franklin is flooded right where I have to cross. I am forced to choose between getting my feet wet by crossing here; or walking 2 or 3 blocks out of my way in the pouring rain.

It’s not much of a choice. Either way I am going to get soaked. I choose the longer route because I do not even own a pair of galoshes. I mean what’s the point? It never rains in Southern California…

I am home now and faced with buyers remorse. A quick internet search tells me that a true Maui onion can only be grown on Maui. Without the special volcanic soil and sparkling ocean vistas, my Maui onions (from inland Santa Paula) are technically nothing more than a sweet onion. No different than say a Vidalia. But this is not Georgia either, so I am getting confused.

I guess onions are a lot like Champagne. Those bottled outside a particular region in France are merely Sparkling Wines.

But you know what. I like sparkling wine, even when it’s from California. In fact California makes some excellent vintages.

What if the same is true for onions? I push on in my research. I get deeper and deeper into web pages nobody ever heard of. So little noticed they have a lower PR than SippitySup.

The more I read about this onion the prouder I start to feel about my choice.

Did you know Maui onions lack sulfur? Sulfur is what causes the stinging tears, strong odor and sharp taste often associated with onions. I guess this is why they call them “sweet” onions. In addition to being very sweet, the Maui onion has a high water content, making it quite juicy.

A sweet, juicy onion. Eureka! I hit the mother lode. This may be the king of onions no matter what we call it!

And I am going to slice and roast these babies in vermouth and cream. I am going to pair them with Parmigiano Reggiano from Wisconsin. Which means it is not technically a Parmigiano Reggiano. But do not get me started!

Roasted Maui Onions in Creamy Parmesan
serves 4 CLICK for printable recipe
1 cup of heavy cream
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup of dry vermouth
2 large Maui onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Heat the cream and vermouth in a saucepan until it starts to bubble around the edges. Toss in the garlic cloves, and turn off the heat. Let the garlic steep in the cream about 1/2 hour. Then remove the garlic.
2.  Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Spread the onions onto a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil.
4. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme. Bake15 minutes.
5. Transfer the onions to a baking dish and spoon the cream onto them.
6. Cover in foil and bake for another 30 minutes.
7. Remove the foil and sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano on top.
8. Raise the temperature to 450F and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.


Greg Henry