I just came back from shopping at one of my favorite grocery stores in Miami where I have been taking care of my mother who fell last week and broke her shoulder. My shopping list was short but as I cut through the produce department, I spotted a basket full of these small onions and remembered a recipe I had saved but never posted. I don't know how long they will be around but hurry up and look for some at the supermarket and make sure you try this wonderful recipe.
Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee this is a smaller, flat, pale onion. The flesh is a slight yellowish color and the skins are thin and papery. The color of the skin ranges from pale yellow to the light brown color of Spanish onions. These are sweeter onions, having more residual sugar than garden-variety white or yellow onions, but not as much as shallots.
The advantage to cipollinis is that they are small and flat and the shape lends them well to roasting. This combined with their sweetness makes for a lovely addition to recipes where you might want to use whole caramelized onions. They can be a little difficult to find as they are not as popular as other varieties but specialty markets and grocery stores should have them, particularly at this time of the year. They are harvested in autumn and may not be easily available year round (or quite expensive in other seasons).
This dish is beloved in Rome, where it pairs naturally with roasted meats like porchetta. In case you haven't had it, porchetta is a savory, fatty, moist boneless pork roast stuffed with herbs, placed on a spit and very slowly roasted over a wood burning stove for many, many hours. Sounds good doesn't it? Well, I don't have a recipe, but I do have a recipe for roasted pork shoulder. The cipollini would also be great served with a simple pork roast or pork chops, preferably cooked on the grill. Why don't you try that next Saturday night?
SERVES 4 – 6
1⁄2 cup raisins
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1⁄2 lbs. cipolline or pearl onions, peeled
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1⁄2 tbsp. sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Put raisins into a small bowl; cover with hot water and let soften for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; pour off oil. Drain raisins. Add raisins, vinegar, and sugar and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens, 2–3 minutes.
Photo: Todd Coleman