French onion dip is a staple of game day parties. Like Uggs on a teenage girl, you just expect it to be there.
Of course there is very little about it that's French. I would be hard pressed to believe that anyone throwing a Paris St. Germain vs. FC Girondins de Bordeaux match party in the arrondissements is setting out plastic cups of the stuff and a bag of ruffles. But then I've never been to France. So who knows?
Per Wikipedia, the dip is ancreation spread widely by a Scottish company. Credit for the inspiration that combined powdered French onion soup mix with sour cream, again per Wikipedia, rightfully belongs to a Californian "unknown cook" who anonymously peddled his fare circa 1954. Word of the concoction spread fast enough for Lipton to print the recipe on packets of their powdered French onion soup mix by 1958 and the rest is football watching ubiquity.
I personally love the stuff. I feel pretty safe in assuming that you do as well. So it is with hat in hand that I ask you to pass on it this week. I've found better. Witness Cipolle Sotto Sale.
That's Italian for salt baked onions, a recipe that is apparently making the rounds in various Roman restaurants.
In my very first RBR Tailgate post, I stated my intent to offer recipes that require little more than a grill for home games and recipes that take advantage of a fully functional kitchen for away games because I assume people are more likely to leave the house for Tuscaloosa and stay at home when we play in farther realms. So if you are going to College Station, my apologies. This doesn't travel well.
If however, you are watching the game at home with friends, prepare to be a hero. It's a long cooking process, though very labor un-intensive.
Roman Onion Dip
1 good sized Red Onion per person
1 ounce of grated Parmesan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, a lot up front, but later to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Choosing the proper onions is key. I opt for Red Onion because the color contrast is nice, but a Vidalia or other yellow onion will work as well. What you need is a wide fat bulb that will, as you will see, stand up on its own after cooking.
Cover the bottom of a lasagna pan with a half inch of salt and set the onions, knobby little bit down, in the salt. Don't bother to peel them. If you have chosen well, the onions will settle in the salt and sit upright. Cover with foil, and place in an oven preheated to 400˚F for an hour.
Remove from the oven and take off the foil. Put them back in, uncovered, and cook for another 30 minutes.
At this point I started wondering if I just wasted a whole lot of salt. Salt pastes are used to seal whole fish or cuts of meat before roasting. I understand the whys and wherefores but just putting a vegetable on a bed of the stuff didn't seem like a proper allocation of resources in my mind.
What difference could it make?
I called a friend who is the executive chef at a local fine dining restaurant and asked.
He told me about a beet dish he has had on his menu that utilized a similar method. According to him, salt beds serve two purposes. First, it regulates the temperature inside the pan and eliminates any hot spots so you get an even cook without burned bits. Second, it keeps the cooked item moist and seasoned.
If you are skeptical or particularly parsimonious, make a foil ring stand. That will save you salt and keep the onions in the proper position, but I trust the chef. Salt for me.
Take the onion out of the oven and let rest. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop the middle out with a spoon leaving, at minimum, two layers of onion flesh intact. The idea is to make bowls as below.
Puree the scooped out flesh with a few glugs of olive oil and the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and then return the puree to the onion bowls. Put them back on the salt, top with a little more Parmesan, and cook for 20 minutes more.
A sprinkle of flat leaf parsley sets it off. Dip to your heart's delight.
This is great with chips - tortilla or potato - but it shines with grilled toast "soldiers." Brush slices of decent sourdough or baguette with a bit of olive oil, salt lightly, and grill. Cut into finger width pieces and dip.
The Texas A&M Aggies are going to throw everything they have at my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. Chavis might not be able to work miracles, but he has his defense headed in the right direction. Sumlin has a salary to justify. A win over Alabama satisfies every greedy oil baron need they have. This might be a hard fight.
You have no control over how hard players practice, how focused they are, how incisive the coaching decisions might be. In that sense, this game is beyond you.
You do have control of the onion dip served. Will it be the onion dip of the city that held the ancient world in thrall, or the onion dip of the nation of whom we pretend was a hot bed of resistance against Nazi occupation?
Don't be Vichy. It's so gauche.