Roasting in Salt

Salt roasting, as a cooking method, has been used for centuries in Mediterranean cuisines and for thousands of years in Asia. Some recipes describe it as fish, meet, or vegetables buried in a thick layer of salt. Other mention salt mixed with egg whites to create a thick crust around what’s being roasted. The idea is to enclose food in a medium that distributes heat better, saves moisture, and slightly seasons at the same time. It’s good for even, slow cooking.

Salt and Onions

Onions
Onions

Our neighbor Jim shared some of his amazing onions with us — good reason to try an Italian recipe (see Recipe Notes below), which waited for a special occasion. Very short list of down-to-earth ingredients, simple preparation, beautiful presentation — I made made it a few times with different variations. We really enjoyed it paired with a slice of fresh crusty baguette and dry French rosé!

In the original recipe, whole onions are salt roasted first. Than, their cooked inner layers are scooped out, chopped, seasoned, and mixed with béchamel (flour, butter and milk) for stuffing. Finally, stuffed onions are baked in salt for the second time for serving.

I experimented with a few different thickening ingredients to replace béchamel — nuts (roasted and salted pistachios and marcona almonds), egg yolk, cheese, and corn starch. Proportions for other thickeners per 1 cup of puree were the following: 1 egg yolk (large egg), or 1 oz of grated cheese, or 1 tsp of corn starch. Each of them slightly affected the taste and texture of the stuffing, and all of them were really good. They turned cooked onion puree into a delicacy comparable with foie gras — sweet onion foie gras.

Salt Roasted Onions
Salt Roasted Onions

Salt Roasted Stuffed Onions

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time14 hrs 15 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, European, Italian
Keyword: casserole, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, onion, recipe, roasted, stuffed, vegetables
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

main ingredients

  • 4 each onion large
  • 8 lb salt e.g., two 4lb-boxes of Morton Canning and Pickling Salt
  • 2 oz pistashios salted and roasted, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt adjust to taste
  • 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground

optional additional ingredients

  • 1 pinch nutmeg freshly ground
  • 1 sprig thyme fresh, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic aramelized
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 oz Asadero cheese grated

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Make shallow cross cuts on the top of each onion, place them in a deep baking dish roots down, and cover with salt.
    Salt Roasting Onions
  • Bake in hot oven for about 1.5 hours, turn off heat, and leave in closed oven for 12 hours or longer, until onions and salt cool down to room temperature.
  • Using a spoon, scoop onion center out of skin and 2-3 outer layers of each cooked onion, cut off dry tops, and place the rest in a blender jar. Puree till smooth and measure with cups.
    Blending roasted onions
  • Add 1-1.5 oz roasted and salted pistachio kernels per 1 cup of onion puree (more nuts, thicker puree). Season with salt and black pepper. Add other spices and herbs, if using them. Blend until smooth. Adjust the taste.
    Roasted onions puree
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Fill onion cups with blended mixture, put them back into the same salt, and bake for 45 minutes, turn off heat, and leave in closed oven until serving time. Serve warm with crusty bread. This appetizer is also good cold, so it can be refrigerated until serving time.
    Salt Roasted Onions
Salt Roasted Onions
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