Sunday, March 18, 2007

For the Love of Onions

I am cooking for a dinner party in a few weeks and I have a lengthy list of items I am not allowed to use (based on allergies, religious reasons, and dislikes). I have to cook without any dairy, pork, red meat, onions, cilantro, curry and smoked fish. Clearly, the dairy thing isn't going to be hard for me. I can easily avoid cooking with pork, I already don't cook red meat, cilantro I love, but I can cook without it without much sacrifice, I don't mind not using curry, and smoked fish is similarly avoidable.

However, I am absolutely flummoxed by having to avoid onions. The guest hates them -- cooked and raw-- and asked that I not cook with them. Of course I said yes, because I adore her and I'm up for the challenge, but I am hard pressed to come up with a savory dish that I don't cook with onions.

I love the entire onion family-- red, white, and sweet onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, etc. Some form of onion is sauteed in olive oil to begin almost every dish that I make. I even use raw onions regularly -- I put them into salads, burgers, salsa, and salad dressing, just to name a few of my staple raw onion-using dishes. Onions are the backbone of my cooking, so this upcoming dinner party is going to challenge my improvisation skills. I'm guessing that I'll use a lot of garlic.

Perhaps in response to this upcoming restriction, I went a little onion crazy a few days ago. I had purchased a few gorgeous young maui onions and four leeks from my Farmer's Market. I also had some large russet potatoes rattling around my cupboard, and a turkey sausage staring beguilingly out of the freezer at me. And an idea for some sort of soup was formed. If you remember, a few weeks ago I improvised a vichyssoise style soup with leeks, red potatoes, and smoked trout, but I didn't want to repeat the same dish. I wanted a chunky soup this time, and I wanted to use the sausage instead of the smoked fish.

It turned out delicious -- warm, comforting, smooth, and hearty. I'm calling this soup "Deconstructed Vichyssoise with Sausage" because, well, that is what it is, and, I like how it sounds. Enjoy!

Deconstructed Vichyssoise with Sausage (serves about 6)


--2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
--3 young maui onions, the bulbs and the lower 1/2 of the stalks roughly chopped (or substitute sweet onions if you cannot find the young maui onions)
--4 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced, (white and green part)
--4 garlic cloves, finely diced
--salt and pepper to taste
--6 cups chicken stock (I used homemade broth I made from the chicken I roasted last week)
--3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and finely diced
--1 package (4 or 5 links) turkey sausage (I used Trader Joe's Turkey and Chicken Sausage with Italian herbs)
--1/4 cup soy milk (or dairy milk/cream if you prefer)


1) heat the olive oil/ butter in a large stock pan, add the leeks, onions, and garlic, and turn the heat on low

2) stir occasionally, while allowing the onions to soften, for the next 30 minutes (if you like, continue stirring over low heat until the onions begin to caramelize)

3) add the chicken stock, the salt and pepper, the potatoes, and the sausage, bring to a simmer

4) simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

5) take off the heat, stir in the soy milk, taste and adjust seasonings

To serve:

Pour into a large bowl and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.


Be careful not to add too much oil or butter. I wanted a richer soup and added too much and it was a little greasy. Stick with just 2 tablespoons. Oh, and be sure to add plenty of freshly ground black pepper -- it really brightens up the mellow onion and potatoes.

If you want a more traditional vichyssoise, puree the contents of the stockpot, sans sausage. Then, if you like, add sausage at the end to the smooth, pureed soup.

Young Maui Onions -- if they had been left in the ground for a few more months they would grow into full sized onions. However, when they are harvested young like this you can enjoy the smaller bulbs and the tender green tops .

Look at the green tops -- yum!

To give you an idea of size -- the bulbs are about the size of a large golf ball


Anonymous said...

As a professional stickler, I feel obliged to note that, in my experience anyway, golf balls only come in one size.


Kristel said...

You know, when I wrote that, I thought to myself, "well, self, there is only one size of golf ball so this really isn't a proper description, but my meaning will be clear and surely no one will be uncouth enough to point out such an inconsequential gaff." ...I was wrong. Thanks, D. :)