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.
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.