I hate in-betweens. I hate being in between sizes, in between meals, in between decisions, in between a rock and a hard place… Point is, in-betweens are uncomfortable and disconcerting and I hate both them and the fact that life is filled with them. Well mine is, in any case. I particularly loathe the in-between when it comes to food. I am not terribly upset when something I make sucks royally and completely. I can chuck it in the trash bin, deem it a failed experiment (oh I am so good at failing experiments - ace, in fact) and move on. Likewise, if I make something wonderfully excellent and spectacular, I eat it, I am happy, I write a blog post. It’s all very straight forward. But then sometimes, I make something that is almost-there-but-not-quite-something-is-missing. That bugs me. I am not happy eating it, I feel guilty tossing it, and I can see what I should have done differently. That one small misstep is staring me smugly in the face, taunting me with what could have been.
In the name of full disclosure, I would like to present my latest in-between: the roasted onion. A long time ago, the Boston Globe ran an article on onions slowly roasted on a bed of salt. They were said to come out picturesque, meltingly soft and sweet, and were eaten whole from the top, like a soft-boiled egg. I loved the idea of eating an onion in its shell, of turning something sharp and unappealing into something sweet and scoopable.
I had a lot of onions in my last Boston Organics box. They were picture perfect – small, perfectly round, and looking really perky. I left them to sit around for a while because I was (surprise) in lab and too busy. They were starting to look decidedly less perky. It was time for me to intervene in their rapid descent into non-perkiness. And so we come to my first mistake. The Globe article used red Bermuda onions but all I had were plain yellow ones. I figured that all onions become sweet when slowly cooked so I decided to take a chance. Bugger.
I didn’t remember if I was supposed to cut the top off the onion or not - being the experimenter that I am (not for much longer, I hope) I cut the top off one and left the other whole.
I then rubbed the onions with olive oil, sprinkled them with black pepper and Red Hawaiian Sea Salt that I have been dying to use, and stuck them atop a mound of coarse (plain) salt. Into the oven they went, at 350F for as long as I could stand it.
Turns out I could only stand it for an hour and a half. They stank. Seriously. My entire apartment filled with essence of onion, and not in a good way. It was a pungent smell that hung in the air. How something so small could emit so much odor is beyond me. The onions were two inches in diameter, max! I even lit a candle to cover up the smell but it was no match for the mighty onion. So, mistake number two – I should have probably left them to roast longer but I didn't, for fear of being told I stink the next day. Bugger, again.
The grand reveal came the next day because I was too tired to eat them that night. Turns out that leaving the top on is definitely the way to go – the whole onion was more thoroughly cooked than the decapitated one. I guess it could steam inside of its own skin, as disturbing as that sounds. The texture of the onion was close to smooth and buttery (I could tell that it would have gotten there had I been more patient) but the taste was off. It tasted just like… onion. Less offensive than raw onion to be sure, but not terribly flavorful. I don’t think there is enough sugar in yellow onions to develop the depth of flavor and sweetness that I am guessing would be the case with red onions. It was alright as a spread on bread but certainly not something to be eaten with a spoon, as I had envisioned. Bugger once more.
The texture was almost there, but not quite. The taste was kinda there, but not quite. So there you have it - my in-between. The onions made for a pretty picture but sadly, that was about it. I will try to make this again once I have a) a bigger apartment with b) a powerful exhaust hood and c) red onions. I do recommend you give it a try. They really are nice to look at, if nothing else.