Onion Confit

In 2010 James Tanner published his inspiring book Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! He could have included Onion Confit in his book, but he didn’t. Five ingredients: onions, olive oil, time and perhaps bay leaf and some water are all you need to create a condiment that is perfect with roasted meats and foie gras. It comes with subtle, natural sweetness and lots of umami.

Let’s first discuss the name: it is confit because it is cooked slowly, in fat, over a long period of time. It’s not chutney for the simple reason that it does not originate from India or Pakistan plus there is no need to add various herbs and spices. It’s also not marmalade because we don’t use the peel of the onion.

Onions contain a chemical substance called inulin (also to be found in for instance bananas and Jerusalem artichokes) and given time and warmth it will breakdown into fructose: fruit sugar. Vinegar stimulates this process. So it’s yes to adding vinegar and no to adding sugar.

So how to turn white onions into a deep brown confit? Obviously we don’t add brown caster sugar (as unfortunately so many recipes suggest). Perhaps use balsamic vinegar? Nice try, but no. The only thing you need to do is to cook the onions on very low heat for 8 hours or so.

Wine Pairing

We served our Onion Confit with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast and a glass of Coteaux du Layon produced by Château de la Roulerie. This is a slightly sweet, golden white wine, made from Chenin Blanc grapes. In general a late harvested, not too sweet wine will be an excellent choice but you could also go for a glass of Champagne or Gewurztraminer.

What You Need

  • 4 White (or Spanish) Onions
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Vinegar
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Water

What You Do

Peel, slice and quarter the onions. Warm a heavy enamelled iron pan, add olive oil and add the onions. Allow to simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and allow to simmer for an additional 8 hours. Check every hour, give a gentle stir and if needed add some water. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. It will last for a week.


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