We have a camping trip planned, and I was writing out our menu for the weekend when inspiration struck. Happy hour around the campfire is begging for warm brie, topped with onion jam and served on slices of grilled french bread. The cheese will compliment campers who are beer drinkers and those who prefer wine, and will be easy to throw together with pre-made onion jam. And so I spent some time in the kitchen this week, making this tasty and versatile onion jam. It’s easy, but time consuming.
First, you slice the onions. My red onions were very fragrant, and I had tears rolling down my face. I tried wearing sunglasses, but it didn’t help much. I used my mandolin for faster slicing, and cut the onions into 1/4″ strips. Then, into the smoking hot oil of my pan.
After cooking the onions down some, I added wine. I used a cheap red, but next time will go with something a little nicer. The cheap red was my only red in the house, and also a brand I’ve never tried before. If I hadn’t been cooking with it, I don’t think I would’ve been able to drink the entire bottle. It was a bit on the sweet side, and a thin, unimpressive red. Live and learn.
After reducing the wine down almost completely, I added butter and let it cook on low while I made a gastrique of honey, red wine vinegar, a little brown sugar and a few pinches of ancho chile powder. You can’t taste the ancho chile powder, but I like to think it adds a subtle deepness to the onions. After the gastrique was made, I poured it into the onions and let them reduce down to a thick, delicious pile of tasty goodness.
This onion jam will keep for about a week in the fridge, if you can actually stop eating it long enough to save some. The flavors deepen overnight, which is perfect if you are making it for snacks and meals over the course of a week or so. How should you use it? As soon as it had cooled, I grabbed the nearest foodstuffs at hand, some Ritz crackers, added aged cheddar, and an apple slice and plopped some onion on top. Mmmm! It will add a pop of flavor to scrambled eggs. Pair it with grilled pork chops, or on top of a cheddar cheeseburger. You could use it as a spread on a turkey sandwich, or use it as a topping for your bagel and cream cheese. Divine!
Adapted from an Alex Guarnaschelli recipe.
4 large red onions, cut into 1/4″ slices
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
Kosher salt (I used two generous pinches)
Shake or two of black pepper
2 cups red wine
3 Tb butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tb brown sugar
2-3 pinches ancho chile powder (optional)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Add oil to a large pan, heat until just smoking hot. Carefully add onion slices, and cook until softened. Add wine, salt and pepper and simmer until almost completely reduced. Throw in the butter and stir well. Turn heat to low and let onions gently cook while you make the gastrique. To make the gastrique, using a small pot, heat the honey until it starts to froth. Cook until it is light caramel brown, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar, brown sugar and ancho chile powder, and cook an additional one or two minutes. Pour gastrique into the onions, stir well and simmer lightly until the liquid is reduced down. Stir in lemon juice to taste. I started off with 1/2 tsp and stirred, tasted, added lemon until I felt like it was enough.