As cool and damp as it was, today was the sort of day when it made sense to crank up the oven, warming the whole house. Here’s a recipe which starkly demonstrates heat’s transformative power: raw onions, so sharp and pungent, baked in a hot oven become wonderfully sweet and tender. In conceiving this dish, I’ve very broadly adapted a recipe from The Art of Just Cooking, by the late and legendary Japanese cooking teacher, Lima Ohsawa. This homey dish would make a nice centerpiece for a simple vegetarian dinner, or a welcome side with most any meal. While this recipe is easy to make, do plan ahead, because onions take their own good time to fully reach their sweet potential. Recipe, after the jump.
Photos: Sharp, crisp and pungent raw onions (top photo) turn soft and sweet with about an hour and a half of baking time (photo just above).
BAKED SWEET ONIONS WITH TAHINI-MISO SAUCE
Preheat oven to 425˚ F /4 servings
Be sure to save the baking juice from the onions to use in the sauce–it’s really, really sweet and flavorful.
For the onions:
2 large white or yellow onions
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
good quality sea salt
1 1/2 cups very hot water
For the sauce:
1 cup onion cooking liquid
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ginger juice (finely grate a thick 1-inch piece of ginger, then squeeze out the juice)
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
a few drops of umeboshi vinegar (optional)
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced into small rounds.
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1. Peel two large onions, preserving as much of the root and stem ends as possible (keeping the ends mostly in tact will help the onions hold together once backed). Place the four half onions cut side up in a small baking pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil. Brush this onto the onions, then sprinkle with quality sea salt.
3. Add the hot water to the baking pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake on the middle shelf of a 425˚ F oven one hour and 30 minutes, or until very tender to the touch.
4. When the onions are tender, take them out of the oven, and set aside. Pour the baking juices into a small sauce pan. You should have about one cup. If you have less, add enough extra water so you have one cup liquid total. Add the ginger juice and miso, stirring well until the miso is completely dissolved. Bring this just to a boil. Add the dissolved arrowroot or corn starch. Whisk this mixture continuously into the sauce. Within 3-5 minutes the sauce should thicken. Shut off the heat and whisk in the tahini and green onions. Let the sauce rest for 3 or 4 minutes before spooning it over the onions.