Transform Pearl Onions Into Savoury Charred Orbs

I eat quinoa sometimes! (Photo: Claire Lower)
I eat quinoa sometimes! (Photo: Claire Lower)

As you may or may not know, Portland, Oregon — the city where I live — is currently in rough shape. I’m not going to list all of our ailments here, but the most pressing issue at this exact moment is the air, which is bad. I’ve been trying to stay in my apartment to avoid it, which means I haven’t been able to go to the grocery store that much. (I already wasn’t going that much because of the pandemic, which is still very real!)

It sucks, but one tiny bright spot is that I’ve been forced to raid my pantry and freezer for forgotten foods. It’s like Chopped, but dystopian! The most exciting finds have been a pork chop and a bag of Anson Mills grits, but the sleeper hit has been a half-consumed bag of pearl onions, which I waffled out of desperation (and boredom).

Let’s Waffle Some Radicchio

Many people have been shocked to find that I am a prolific maker and consumer of salads. This makes sense, as the persona I put out into the world is somewhat gin-soaked and bacon greased, and waffling Honey Buns and leftover pizza doesn’t help. But I do love a good...

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“This is stupid,” I mumbled to myself as I pressed some lightly oiled and salted, still sort of frozen onions between the plates of my waffle iron. “What is the point of any of this?”

The point, at least in regards to the waffling, was transforming slippery, cold little allium orbs into charred, sweet spheres. The waffled onions were somewhere between burnt and caramelised, with soft, supple centres, and they were delicious. They also cooked very quickly, which is something I always look for in a prep method. (It does, however, make a mess, but we have strategies for dealing with that.)

I let them cool a moment before adding to the collection of quinoa you see above, and they brought both style and savoury substance to the dish. I think they’d make a lovely filling for vegetarian tacos or a submarine sandwich, but there’s no need to get super creative — they’re great as a simple side for roasted chicken and pot roast.

Frozen pearl onions need a small amount of prep: Rinse them under cold water to remove any frost (and slightly soften), then let dry for a few minutes on paper towels. Drizzle with enough oil to coat (I used grape seed oil for its high smoke point), then salt generously and waffle over medium-high heat until they are golden and charred in spots. Let cool if you plan to serve in a salad, or enjoy immediately alongside braised or roasted meats.

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