Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Oh-so-sweet Caramelized Onion Dip
[With apologies for the photo - it's not easy to make a delicious dip look delicious.]
I was hanging out with my friend (and author extraordinaire) Susan Juby on the island this weekend, and one of our traditions is to watch a television series from start to finish (in this case, Walking Dead) while we treat ourselves to excellent snacks. Just before I boarded the ferry to visit, I found this recipe from the New York Times' Mark Bittman. Perfect excuse to make it.
I've always made caramelized onions with a 25-minute method: cook them low with a little oil, wait about 25 minutes til they darken a bit, then add a teaspoon of balsamic and a teaspoon of sugar. I can't remember which chef I learned this from, but it always seemed to work.
This method is much longer, much more meditative—you can't really leave the pot alone—but fortunately I had my good friend Trevor with me to keep me company and chat about how the graphic novel version of Walking Dead was superior to the television version (as if you all thought differently).
Bittman's caramelization starts with dry cooking the onions, covered, for about 20 minutes, and it really is fascinating to watch how they change as you go. You'll see them go from a pale yellow straw, to something mahogany and jammy over a period of about 45 minutes or so—adding a little oil as they start to stick.
The taste difference is amazing—so much richer and worth it for the long process!
Finally, once the process is finished an hour or so later, you get to mix it in with some yogurt (Susan opted to pick up some goat yogurt, the perfect offset to the sweet onions), a little lemon, and a little thyme.
You could also play around with the frizzled leeks, as Bittman suggests, but when you're hanging out in sweat pants and hiding your head behind the pillow (Walking Dead! So scary!) I don't see garnish as much of a necessity.
Caramelized Onion Dip With Frizzled Leeks Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times
2 pounds onions (6 to 8 medium), chopped (5 to 6 cups)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
11/2 cups goat yogurt (Liberty makes a terrific version)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and julienned or thinly sliced
Crudités or crackers for serving
Put the onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring infrequently, until the onions are dry and almost sticking to the pan, about 20 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and a large pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding just enough additional oil to keep them from sticking without getting greasy. The onions are ready when they’re dark, sweet and jammy, 40 minutes to 1 hour later.
Sprinkle with black pepper, stir in the thyme and remove the onions from the heat. When they’re cool, fold them into the yogurt and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. (At this point, you can cover the dip with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)
Wipe or wash out the skillet and put it over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil. A few seconds later, add half the leeks, turn the heat up to high and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to turn the leeks over as they cook. Be careful: they will go from not-browned to burnt pretty quickly, and you want to catch them in between those stages, when they’re browned and crisp.
Transfer the leeks to paper towels to drain and repeat with the remaining leeks, adding more oil to the pan if necessary to keep them from sticking.
Garnish the onion dip with the crisp leeks and serve immediately with crudités or crackers.