Onion. It's almost a palindrome, a word that's spelled the same backwards and forwards, like did, dad, peep, mom. And we who enjoy sweet onions realize there's nothing oxymoronic there, as in combining two contradictory terms. These members of the lily family, whose names derives from the Latin for "one," lend their taste and smell to dishes the world round.
Whether they're young and green or mature and papery, onions come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and flavors. There's the mild Bermuda, the slender scallion, the round Spanish and the sweet and juicy Vidalia—pure onion gold to its fans. Onion rings made with Walla Walla onions from Washington taste sweet enough for dessert. Pearl onions, mild in flavor and marble-like in size, stand alone as a side dish or become part of a main course, depending upon their preparation. Try this recipe to satisfy your spring-time onion cravings.
Pan Roasted Grouper with Sweet Onion Medley and Red Onion Salsa
4 5-6 oz. grouper filets, skin off, cleaned nicely (or any other flaky white fish)
Red Onion Salsa
1/2 C. red onion, fine diced
1 T. capers, drained, smashed and chopped to a paste-like consistency
Zest and juice from one lemon
1 T. fresh minced flat leaf parsley
Olive oil just to coat these ingredients, not to soak them
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Seal with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. The salsa tastes even better if it's made a day ahead.
Sweet Onion Medley
8 pearl onions, unpeeled
1 medium sweet yellow onion, unpeeled, quartered
4 small shallots
2 large or 4 small cipollini onions
1/2-3/4 C. chicken broth
2 T. butter, unsalted
1 T. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the pearl onions for 15 seconds, then shock them in an ice water bath. Blanch cipollini for 20 seconds, then shock them. Once cooled, barely snip off the root end by trimming just the discolored part. Peel off the outer skin. Quarter the cipollini if large, halve them if small. Place the shallots in a small, deep baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, just until soft, not mushy.
Place the quartered yellow onions on a flat baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper, then put the pan in the oven for 15-25 minutes. Flip the quarters at the mid-point so that both sides get nice and brown, a bit caramelized.
Once both the shallots and the yellow onion have cooled to room temperature, cut off the root end of the shallot and peel the outer skin, keeping them as whole as possible. Pull the outer skin off the yellow onion and just barely snip off the root because you want them to stay together as wedges.
Meanwhile, turn the oven up to 375-400 degrees, depending on how hot your oven runs. Salt and pepper the grouper filets. Heat two large sauté pans over medium/high heat. Add a little extra-virgin olive oil to each pan. Heat until the olive oil runs quickly across the pan, almost to smoking. To the first pan, add the pearl onions and cipollini, for about 40 seconds to a minute, just until they begin to caramelize. Add the shallots and yellow onion wedges. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Once the cipollini and pearls have some color to them, glaze with the chicken stock. Add the butter and reduce.
In the second pan, place the grouper with the good, show side down; sear it and give it some color. Place the hot pan with the fish into the oven for four to six minutes, depending upon the thickness and shape of the filets. Bring the fish out of the oven; turn it over in the pan to make sure the top is golden brown. Return the pan to the stove top on medium high heat for 60 seconds or so to finish. At this point, the stock should be reduced to a sauce consistency that just glazes the onions. Taste and season if needed, and toss with parsley.
Evenly spoon the sweet onion medley with sauce onto four plates. Place fish filets next to or on top of the sweet onion medley, then top the fish with the red onion salsa. Drizzle remaining salsa on the plate.