Over the 4th of July holiday, I was looking for an easy, yet delicious dip to bring to a party. As I had a friend in town that I wanted to keep entertained while I cooked, I didn't want it to be too complex. I decided to make a take on French Onion dip. Through this I realized how satisfying it is to caramelize onions, as you slowly watch them turn from their white, crunchy state into that beautiful brown, soft mass. Though I didn't think to take photos of the dip, it turned out beautifully, a mixture of the onions with a little garlic and thyme, salt and pepper, then mixed with sour cream, with a little fresh lemon zest mixed in to brighten the flavors a bit. Served with lots of fresh veggies, and those very tasty Kettle Chips- it was a nice addition to a party that had all sorts of tasty treats.
Last night I got the idea to make something of an onion jam to be served with a beautiful pork tenderloin I had purchased. To start off, I preheated my oven to 375, and then gently massaged salt, pepper, cinnamon and vegetable oil on the loin. When it was nicely covered, and the oven was pre heated, I placed it in the oven and let it do its thing. Then I set to work on some accompaniments.
First, I whipped up a quick dip using garlic, small white beans, lots of parsley, salt and pepper. After a rough chop of the garlic and parsley, I added them to my food processor with the salt and pepper. I added the beans, turned on the machine, and slowly started adding some olive oil to the mix. Just about a minute later I had a nice bean dip, with tons of flavor. Garlicky and fresh with parsley, it was a lovely healthy dip. I then toasted up some fresh French Bread rounds on my cast iron grill pan, and served them together as a little appetizer.
Then I got to start on my interpretation of Onion Jam. I thinly sliced about a half of a white onion. Looking back now-I probably should have just done the whole thing. Then in a small pan over a very low flame I melted a bit of butter, to add richness, with a little salt and pepper- to draw the water out, and to add some flavor. Once the butter had melted, I added the onions. Caramelizing onions takes time, and patience. The only way I can get them to properly caramelize is to keep them over very low heat, and stir very frequently so that they don't burn- or get at all crispy. As the onions started to cook down, I added in some fresh chopped sage, and then as they turned a light brown, I added chopped dried cranberries. As the cranberries began to break down, I added a few tablespoons of apple juice to the pan and let it absorb into the onions- soon I had a really beautiful combination of the brown onions, the red cranberries, and the beautiful green sage. Just at the end of cooking, I added a quick handful of sliced almonds for texture.
Finally, after about an hour and twenty minutes of cooking, with a few bastings with apple juice (I still love the idea of pork chops and apple sauce), the pork was finished. I quickly sauteed some spinach with garlic, and dinner was complete.
I served slices of the pork dressed with just a little of the onion "jam" on the plates, with a side of spinach. The pork had delicious flavor with the cinnamon rub, though I had left it in the oven a hair too long. The onion jam though- it really brought the meal together. Soft and sweet, the onions mixed beautifully with that wonderfully earthy sage, and the slight tartness of the cranberries. The almonds provided a nice crunch to the dish that without I think it would have been pretty monotone. I found the dish really delicious, an all star had the pork been not quite so well done.
My real praise though? My DC asked for seconds-of all- and doesn't even like onions. I feel as though that is a real accomplishment.