You know how, one day, you’re walking through the grocery store and you suddenly remember a dish you haven’t made in ages? It was a great recipe, but somehow in your transformation from the time when chicken casseroles were a stretch to when you whipped up a frittata on a moment’s notice, that dish got lost? That’s what happened to me last week.
My grocery store had a big display of Vidalia onions, which have only been out now since late April. And I remembered one of my favorite dishes from early in my marriage, when I learned how fabulous Vidalia onions are.
My mother always loved onions – any kind. She’d have raw onion sandwiches for breakfast or lunch: just two pieces of bread with a little butter and a big slice of onion. Ack. I gag just thinking about it, because I’ve never liked raw onions. Spring onions, shallots, red onions, white onions, yellow onions. I pick them out of salads, and experiment on how little I can get away with adding to a recipe that calls for them. So the idea of eating a whole onion – even a cooked one – was not a thing I ever contemplated.
But I always did like onion soup. Loved it, in fact. So when I heard about this way of cooking Vidalias – in which the flavors are very similar – I figured I’d try it. It works especially well with Vidalias because of their natural sweetness.
Vidalia onions are larger and sweeter than standard yellow or white onions. They’re native to an area in Georgia where the soil is very low in sulfur, so they don’t impart that pungent taste to the back of my mouth that I associate with white or yellow onions. The season for them used to be very short, but with better storage techniques, they are now available all the way into December.
Now, when buying or cooking a Vidalia onion, I find that the best results stem from getting oneself in the mood from the start. You approach the onion bin at the grocery store, and put one or both hands on your hips, and you lean forward just a touch, and say, “Why, ah thank ah should cook some Vah-DAY-ya onions tonight.” Works for me.
Big Baked Vidalias
For each serving:
1 medium Vidalia onion
1 small beef bouillon cube (the size needed to make 1 cup of liquid)
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
1-2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Grana Padano, or Gruyère cheese
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Remove any dry outer layers of the onion. Trim the root end – not so much as to remove it, but to flatten it enough that the onion will stand evenly on it. Cut enough of the top off the onion to leave about a 2-inch flat circle.
With a knife, hollow out a cone from the top of the onion, to a depth of one inch. Place the bouillon cube in the bottom of the cone, and fill the remainder of the cone with the butter.
At the end of the hour, if you have wrapped the onion in foil, unfold the foil to expose the top of the onion; if you have used a small casserole dish, remove the foil. Sprinkle the cheese onto the top of the onion, and broil for two minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.
Note that the inside of the onion will be very hot, so let it sit for at least 5 minutes before serving