Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scalloped Onions, leeks and shallots...or: One big knife. Two closed eyes. Enter bandaid.

The leeks were lovely at the Santa Monica Farmer's market, but I wanted to try something other than potato leek soup. I came across this scalloped onion recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook , and it had me at bread crumbs and cheddar cheese. It wasn't until I was actually shopping up three whole pounds of freaking onions that I looked at the yield on the recipe: serves eight. Eight! I wondered what exactly I was getting myself into, what with the onions, the 1/2 lb of shallots, etc, but forged ahead, for lack of a better idea.

Now, eventually I knew I'd join the ranks of injured cooks, but I am ashamed to say exactly how I did it. For the sake of entertainment, I swallow my shame and give you the short version:

- Chopping 3 lbs. of onions makes one's eyes water. A lot.
- Decided to just let my eyes tear up, thinking it might be best to rid my eyes of the irritating onion fumes.
- Thought "I can chop these with my eyes closed"...

...right...there's where it all came crashing down. My injury involved just enough blood to ensure that I don't chop onions again with my eyes closed, but was certainly mild enough to make medical attention unwarranted.

Back to the meal. This is one of those dishes where the flavors and textures blend so harmoniously together...like the Beach Boys of cuisine. The leeks and shallots take the sharpness out of the onion, the shallots lend a sweetness to the dish, and the butter, heavy cream, cheese and bread crumbs...but wait! I don't have a calorie or fat count on this, but it really isn't as rich as one might think. I mean, three lbs of onions (plus the leeks and shallots) is a lot of veggie to soak up just a 1/4 cup of cream. The cheese melted into the bread crumbs...a dish fit for a (hungry) King.

2 lbs. leeks halved lengthwise and chopped
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
3 lbs. of onions, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 lb shallots
salt and pepper
1/4 c heavy cream
1 c coarse fresh bread crumbs (once again, I used store bought)
1 C grated extra sharp cheddar (about 4 oz)
1/4 t paprika

Preheat oven to 375.

Melt butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Add onions, leeks, shallots, and salt and pepper. cover and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to moderately low and cook, covered, about 10-20 minutes, until veggies are soft.

Remove lid and cook another 3-5 minutes, letting excess liquid evaporate.

Stir cream into onion mixture and put in a shallow baking dish. Toss together bread crumbs and cheese and sprinkle on top. Dust top with paprika. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.

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