My paternal grandmother Daisy was not a great cook. For example, she took her green beans, added fat back and boiled them to death. Store bought white bread was her preference and I don't remember a single recipe of hers that I would want to replicate or pass on. Except one. Her onion confit was to die for. She actually called it onion "com-pote" (she was from Kentucky) but the slow braising actually made it technically a confit so that's what I would have called it. When she passed I was taken by surprise and upon investigation it was found that her meager recipe box had disappeared.
So years went by and it seemed that the onion "com-pote" recipe was lost. Then we were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Lynn Duncan and her husband Robert. Lynn puts on the most outrageously good Thanks giving dinner and everybody who attends looks forward to it year after year. Her table is gorgeous with antiques and homey touches. Lynn is an artist as well as phenomenal cook. She makes mica lampshades that are exquisite and if I could afford one I would have several.
Lynn makes onion confit that tastes the way I remember my grandmother's tasted and she was kind enough to share the recipe with me. In the way of any good cook she does not have the recipe in minute detail and she always says you can substitute this or that and in that way the recipe is organic and flexible. See what you can think of to make it your own.
I offer it here. The basic recipe. It goes with everything. Turkey, stuffing, yams, you name it. It's even good on homemade bread.
Lynn Duncan's Onion Confit
1 pound pearl onions peeled (frozen pearl onions can be used. Defrost them and dry them off)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons brown or white sugar
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 parsley sprigs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 to 2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
Put onions in a pan with the vinegar, oil, sugar, tomato paste, herbs, raisins, salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 cup of water. You will add water as needed as the onions cook down.
Bring to a boil and simmer very gently covered for 45 minutes or until the onions are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. It might take up to 1-1/2 hours depending on how liquid-y the onions are. Add water as needed until the onions begin to caramelize. Then simmer uncovered until the desired color is reached. It should be a nice dark brown. Stir frequently to prevent burning. When finished remove the bay leaf and parsley and check the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.
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