Thursday, February 3, 2011

What makes a meal? The side dish of course!


Stuffed Onions

I’m a compulsive stuffer. When I see a vegetable, I pick it up, turn it around in my hands and my first thought is always “What can I cook with this?”, which is always closely followed by “Can I stuff this?”. It’s bad, I know. No zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, egg or even bread (makes a great soup bowl) is safe with me.

When it comes to food, a lot of people are addicted to normal chocolate. Not me, though—I’m addicted to onions, of all things, in all their sassy varieties. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy with my addiction. But it does raise the question “Can I stuff them?”

A few years ago, when I wanted to prepare a more special holiday appetizer using simple ingredients that most people like, I came up with this onion dish. I like onions so much that I just wanted to use them as a stand alone vegetable. Now, usually for a dish like this, you have to first boil the onions and take it from there—pretty time consuming, to say the least. But I found a workaround! The recipe does take some time but cooks pretty much unattended, leaving you with lots of free time for other things.


6 onions
handful of mushrooms
1 garlic clove
7 oz ground beef
stale white bread
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/3 cup grated cheese
4 cups chicken broth
flat parsley
1 tsp salt


Preheat your oven to 400F (200C).

Season the meat. I like a bit of sweetness and spiciness in my meat—it works really well with the onions. So I seasoned my beef with 1 tsp salt, a good pinch of black pepper, some freshly grated nutmeg and my secret ingredient—1 heaping tbsp sweet chili sauce. Knead it well.


Beautiful onions! I love onions. It doesn’t matter how they’re prepared—I’ll eat them. Sharpen your knife (I always do before cooking!).

Just cut off the top, peel the onion and cut a small slice off the bottom so the onions won’t tumble over.


Grab a spoon, stick it between two layers of onion, really dig it in there and just follow the curves with your spoon. That way you’ll loosen the layers a bit making it easier to scoop them out. You can also use a small knife or even an apple corer, this just seems to work best for me. Just make sure you’re left with at least 1/3 inch of onion layer.

Give the onion you just scooped out a rough chop. We’ll use about 1/3 to 1/2 of it, depending on how much you like onions. I always put the rest in a ziploc bag and store it in my fridge to use in another recipe. I seldom throw things away, especially not onions.


Wash a handful of mushrooms. I went for about 6 of them. Remove the stem, thinly slice them and cut the slices in half.


I grated a medium-sized garlic clove and crumbled up a stale white bun. You can also do this with normal white bread—just make sure it’s not totally fresh.


Grab a good hand of flatleaf parsley, then wash and finely chop it. You can also use celery leaves.


Put your meat in a skillet and cook until brown. Drain the fat—yes, drain all of it! Not because I’m a health nut, but because the meat is part of your stuffing.


Lots of stuff going on here, so rather than take up your entire screen I’ll add it all to one storyboard.

I’m merely using the fat that was still inside the skillet to cook the onions. After about 4 minutes you can add your garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms lose their whiteness. Now simply add a good handful of chopped parsley, put the meat back in and sprinkle the breadcrumbs in as well. Stir to combine.

Turn off the heat and also get 1/3 cup of cheese in there. Being in Gouda, I’ve used a spicy Gouda cheese, but a sharp cheddar would be great as well.


Now let me start by saying my roasting pan is way too big! It would have looked better had they fit snugly together. Just place your onions in a roasting tin or regular oven dish.


Spoon in the meat mix.


Now pour in chicken or beef broth until the onions are 1/3 to 1/2 covered in liquid. This way the oven will work double duty: the outside of the onions are cooked, making them soft and edible…while the insides are baked. Just let the oven does the work for you!


Loosely cover the tin with aluminum foil and pop in a preheated oven for about 1 hour.


Lower your oven to 350F (175C), take the onions out, drizzle a little broth all over them, spoon out a little of the chicken broth (if it hasn’t vaporized by now) and put it back in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 to 30 minutes. Until the onion and topping is golden brown.


When they’re done just sprinkle some coarsely chopped parsley on top and serve with warm, crispy bread topped with a little garlic and herb butter. It’s delicious.

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