Sunday, November 30, 2008

The All-Purpose Condiment: Red Onion Confit


This is one of those recipes that's so easy, you barely need a recipe for it. That being said, this is a food blog, so I suppose I should provide you with one. Fair enough. This one's quick and dirty. Let's get right to it.

Red Onion Confit
Makes 2 Quarts

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, plus extra for packaging
5 pounds thinly (seriously, as thin as you can slice them) sliced Red Onions
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Cups Dry Red Wine
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Cup Golden Yellow Raisins
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme (optional)
2 Tablespoons Orange Marmalade (optional)

Heat 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large heavy pot. Add the onions into the pot and reduce heat to medium.

Cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent and reduced by 1/2. Add sugar and a generous dose of freshly cracked pepper. Cook for another two minutes, or until sugar is melted.

Add raisins, and, if you have some on hand, and feel like using it, some fresh thyme.

Next, add your dry red wine and red wine vinegar.

As a variation, a Belgian ale can work in a pinch too. A nice tripel will add certain characteristics, whereas a fruit-based lambic will bring other elements into play. Note that if you choose to use beer instead of wine, you'll be missing out on certain tannic notes, and you'll end up with a slightly sweeter, lighter colored product. Here's my advice: Your first time out, make this with the red wine. Once you get an idea for what that's like, let your imagination carry you from there. In this case, I used Quelque Chose, a beer made by Unibroue, a Canadian brewing company.

With the lid off, cook until the confit reaches a gelatinous, thick, jam-like state. Feel free to stir in orange marmalade at this point -- it adds a dry, pleasant fruitiness to the final product. Remember, if you used red wine, your onions will appear much darker than those in the photos here.

Now, there's a possibility that your jam won't come together. This happens to the best of us, and the last thing I want is for you to have a watery, thin mess on your hands. If the consistency is too thin, do what cheating cooks have done for years -- mix one teaspoon of corn starch with one tablespoon cold water, and add the mixture into the still-cooking onions. Repeat as needed. Now, I know. Corn starch?! It's a minor cooking sin, really. Consider your horrible cooking secret safe with me.

Take the onion mixture off the heat, and allow to cool. From here, pack the onion mixture tightly into two mason jars or Tupperware containers, and cover each with a 1/8-inch layer of olive oil. This adds a nice mellow flavor to the onions, and the layer of oil helps keep them from spoiling. The onions should keep for two-three weeks. The final product:

I know, two quarts of the stuff seems like a lot, but believe me, it'll disappear quick. An incredibly versatile dish, these onions have a delectable sweet and sour balance, and pair nicely with grilled steaks, poached eggs, on sandwiches, over toast, in salads, or right out of the jar. You'll discover they're quite addictive. That's it! Burning Pasta should return in two weeks, after finals. In the meanwhile, I'll be studying hard...and eating lots of these onions. See you then.

Music: Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell -- "The Onion Song"

(Editor's Note: The Pasta Burner found this song and insisted we upload it as the musical accompaniment for this post. I never thought I'd find a Marvin Gaye song that threatened to make my ears bleed, but this one might just do it. If you manage to listen to the entire thing, have a tolerance for incredibly bad lyrics that's much stronger than mine. Without further ado, enjoy this truly terrible song -- if enjoy is the right word.)


  1. You should check out this. My friends Sarah and John from started this baby: I think it's right up your and the Pasta Burner's alley, :).

    Oh, right, this is posting under my long since forgotten blogspot name: this is your fellow Bostonian in residence, struggling with her first semester of a Ph D. :)

  2. WOW! This is really an amazing and attractive post about Red Onion Confit . I appreciate your posted wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.


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