Champagne Onions

by Chef Mark Tafoya

This is more of a technique than a recipe, per se.  Chef Mark has used a version of this preparation as an ingredient in a few dishes, and some playing around in the kitchen yielded different versions which can be used in diverse ways.  Any way you prepare and serve them, the natural sweetness of the onions is enhanced, and their intensity cut by cooking them slowly in champagne.  They can be used as a garnish for hors d’oeuvres, a filling for omelets, mixed with soft cheese for a luxuriously textural dip, or enjoyed whole as an accompaniment to meats.

Basic Ingredients

1 cup diced onion
1 cup champagne

Basic Preparation

Cook the diced onions in the champagne in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Reduce until the champagne is completely cooked off, about 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and store in a covered container.  Can be stored refrigerated for up to one week.

[Chef’s Note: See variations below.]

Variations

This is where it gets fun!  You can use different onions and different flavors of champagne to prepare this combination in a number of ways, with varying textures and flavor profiles.

Sweet Vidalia Champagne Onions

1 cup diced Vidalia onions
1 cup dry champagne

Mix with sour cream and fresh herbs for a party dip with a surprising texture and sweetness.

Purple Champagne Onions

1 cup diced red onions
1 cup pink champagne

The purplish/red color intensifies as the onions cook in the pink champagne, which accentuates both the color and the sweetness, as red onions can be more bitter than sweet Vidalias.

This is a great addition to canapés and hors d’oeuvres as a sweet and colorful garnish.  When completely cooled (and drained to remove any extra liquid), they can be mixed with softened cream cheese for a spread.  This also makes a whimsical addition to a filled omelet, a sweet counterpoint in an otherwise piquant salsa, or a sweeter replacement for raw onions as a garnish for caviar and blinis or for bagels and lox.

Champagne Braised Cipollini Onions
Cipollini onions are a small, flat Italian onion similar to pearl onions.  They can be braised and served as a side dish for meats, or mixed with roasted vegetables.

Ingredients

1 pound cipollini onions, peeled
2 cups champagne
1 cup water
¼ cup champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt

Preparation

Place all ingredients except cipollini in a non-reactive saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and add the onions.  Simmer for 10 minutes, or until softened (you should be able to smash one easily with a fork).  Remove the onions to a bowl and cool the onions and liquid separately, then pour liquid over the onions and store in a covered container for up to one week.

Place one braised cipollini atop a finished steak with sage butter just before service, or cut them in half and serve with a slice of foie gras for a rich and sweet hors d’oeuvre idea.

Champagne Braised Pearl Onions

Same preparation as for cipollini onions, above, but using 1 pound of peeled pearl onions.

These can be dropped into a cocktail for an unusually sweet garnish, or as an addition to finished stews, especially boldly-flavored ones, to act as a sweet counterpoint.  Serve these as a side dish for roasted poultry dishes along with roasted potatoes.  Alternate them with roasted pork cubes on skewers for an hors d’oeuvre.

Recipes by Mark Tafoya
Photo by Kelly Cline

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