Thursday, March 27, 2008
Fresh from the farmer's market: pan-roasted balsamic onions (and my chicken with creamy mustard sauce)
I took an extended absence from the farmer’s market. Partly I was lazy about getting over there on Saturday, partly I was tired of the same old cold weather offerings and small number of stands typical of the deep winter. I was excited anew to check out the offerings last weekend since spring is now in the air, and I was sure there would be the first signs of a new crop hitting the market. To my delight, many of the stands that had been absent for so many months were back. There was a wealth of flowers: the first tulips, including the ones I love with pointed bi-color petals, and a variety of branches from peach blossom to magnolia (I missed out on the latter by 5 minutes – guess who will be there bright and early next weekend?).
There were many root vegetables, which, of course, is not new news but I was attracted to some beautiful onions I hadn’t noticed before: large red and white pearl onions (much bigger than I had ever seen before but with their telltale oval shape) and large cipollini – red and white (have you ever seen red before?). I was reminded of my favorite whole onion recipe that was featured in Martha Stewart Living’s Thanksgiving issue two years ago. For some reason, that particular issue was full of particularly inspiring recipes and ideas, much more so than the same issue last year. One of the many recipes I tried in that now dog-eared edition is one for pan-roasted balsamic onions. The recipe calls for mixed red and white cipollini and pearl onions as well as leeks. The leeks don't really work in Martha’s version – they wilt and discolor and become very unimpressive lump, so I have my own way of dealing with them, which I will share.
I prepared my bounty with some chicken, wild rice and snow peas. The onions are the show-stopper though – and I love that they are left whole so you can appreciate the beauty of their different shapes and colors.
Pan-roasted balsamic onions (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
(Serves 8 to 10)
30 ounces mixed onions including (white and red pearl onions and cipollini onions)
2 1/4 pounds leeks (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add white and red pearl and cipollini onions, and boil for 1 minute. Drain. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then carefully peel, removing roots but leaving the ends intact. Transfer to a large bowl, and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine.
Meanwhile, remove any damaged outer leaves from leeks (if using), then trim and discard dark-green tops. Cut them in half lengthwise, and swish in a bowl of cold water to rid them of dirt and sand, holding them so that the layers do not separate. Pat dry, and place on a roasting pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Broil leeks for 5-7 minutes until browned on top and softened.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon oil and white, red, and cipollini onions to skillet, and sauté turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium low, and add balsamic vinegar and stock; cover skillet, and cook until onions are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add leeks cut-side down for last few minutes so that balsamic sauce coats them. Uncover, and add butter (if using); increase heat to high, and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until liquid reduces to a glaze and coats the onions, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and serve immediately.
Pan-roasted chicken with creamy mustard tarragon sauce
2 medium-sized skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Dijon mustard with seed
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
Add oil to a skillet (not non-stick) and heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken breasts and brown each side on medium heat. Add ¼ cup water, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and reserve.
Over low heat, add 3 tbs mustard and 6 tbs crème fraîche to pan and stir, scraping pan so that browned bits on bottom are released. Stir in 1 tablespoon roughly chopped tarragon leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Add additional crème fraîche if desired.
Slice chicken and plate it. Spoon sauce over chicken. Garnish with a couple tarragon leaves.