By all accounts I enjoy a good chat. It has always been that way; in fact, I do believe that somewhere I have an old progress report bearing the following glowing review: “Tara is a chatterbox. Sometimes distracts others.”
A distraction indeed; between instant messaging, e-mail and the telephone, rarely does a day go by without a good gab with a friend or family member.
Whatever the topic - sensational shoes, starlet shenanigans or all things sparkly - these chats are our chance to not only catch up, but also forget about the distance that is sometimes between us. Time differences and schedule conflicts fall away and all we are left with is common ground and usually a good laugh.
It was such a discussion that inspired our Sunday night this week. Across an ocean and over e-mail, a dear friend and I were considering an all- too-important issue; what to feed our grumbling bellies. Lucky for me, the hours separating us worked to my advantage - while I was still searching for supper ideas, Michèle’s was already tucked in the oven. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I decided I would follow her lead and recreate her menu on this side of the Atlantic.
To serve alongside our matching roasts Michèle had found a truly delicious-sounding recipe for roasted red onions over at Epicurious.com. She assured me that hers smelled fantastic roasting away. However, as I was already eager to use the pretty little yellow onions my father had given me, I suggested the substitution.
Looking ahead to the inevitable roast beef sandwich lunches, I wanted a final dish closer to a marmalade relish than a simple vegetable side, so I asked her opinion of adding some honey and swapping out the vinegar. The consultation continued; the minutiae of our preparations were covered from roast beef internal temperatures to ovens, from green beans to brussels sprouts and the questionable need for potatoes.
In the end, after countless messages back and forth, my family and I sat down to a meal that I did not feel I had prepared alone. I had made it with a friend.
And what was one of my first thoughts this morning? Talking to that friend to compare notes.
Oh Mrs. Kline, if only you knew - I have not improved in the least in all these years since Kindergarten. Thank goodness for that.
Jammy roasted onions
My own creation, of sorts. Inspired by Epicurious, adapted from collaborative conversations with Michèle. Makes a wonderful accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats and poultry; with the velvety sweetness of the onions offset by the resonant twang of balsamic.
Shown above in a sandwich of toasted ciabatta, rare roast beef, field greens and a homemade horseradish aïoli similar to Ina Garten’s horseradish sauce.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 spring fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon honey
About 1 1/2 pounds (700 g) small onions
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 450ºF (230ºC).
In a small saucepan, combine butter, olive oil and herbs. Warm slowly over low heat. Once the butter has completely melted and the herbs are fragrant, remove from the heat and stir in honey. Allow to cool.
Trim the roots of the onions, but leave intact; peel and slice into quarters lengthways.
In a roasting dish, toss the onions, garlic and herb oil mixture. Once well coated, drizzle over balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and toss again.
Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the middle position of the preheated oven. Every 20 minutes, peel back foil and turn onions with a broad spatula. After one hour, reduce oven temperature to 300ºF (150ºC). Roast for an additional 30-45 minutes, until done to your liking.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for about a week, refrigerated in a sealed container.
• Shallots or cipollini onions can also be used; in this case, cut in half or leave whole.
• Use a roasting pan that just fits the onions and garlic in a single layer; too big of a pan and the balsamic and honey will burn, too small of a pan and the vegetables will steam rather than roast.
• For a sweeter, darker version, substitute an equal amount of dark brown sugar for the honey.
• For fans of strong flavours, these onions can be used to top crostini. Add Cambozola and broil for an over-the-top snack.