Well Worthy of Side Dish Status

Grilled Onions with Balsamic Vinaigrette are not normally something one would think of as a side on its own. But let me tell you, I’ve changed my mind after eating these—definitely worthy of being a stand-alone side dish. You’ll drool over their mellow, sweet bite; caramelized edges; and crisp-tender texture!

In case you need a little coaxing, onions, which are very popular in French cuisine, are thought to play a role in the so-called “French Paradox” — the low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite their relatively high-calorie diet. Never mind the tears they bring on, onions are an ace ally in your fight against disease.

Still not convinced? For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections. A prized member of the lily family, onions lavish you with health benefits while adding oodles of taste to your food. Not to mention you can buy a bundle from the grocery store for mere pennies.

For this recipe, start with halved onions, cutting them from pole to pole rather than through the equator to keep them intact. Then grill the onions directly over the flame until very dark to ensure that they have sufficient chargrilled flavor.

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Trim stem end of onions and halve onions from root end to stem end, leaving skin intact; and prepare vinaigrette.

Leaving the skins on keeps the bottoms of the onions from burning but still allows for plenty of caramelization. After grilling, steam them in a covered disposable pan to cook through evenly, for buttery soft results. Finish with a simple balsamic vinaigrette to complement their sweetness and lend a burst of acidity.

The size of the onions will affect the cooking time, so it’s important to choose onions that weigh between 7 and 8 ounces each and measure about 3 inches in diameter. In step 3, be sure to err on the side of achieving darker charring, as the steaming step will soften the char’s appearance and flavor. As an added bonus, the onions can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

A balsamic vinaigrette lent bright acidity and flavor that complemented the chargrilled, sweetly caramelized onions, while a sprinkling of minced chives brought color and freshness. They paired perfectly with our grilled lamb kebabs. But with just the two of us for dinner, we had leftovers.

No problem there, a few nights later we just incorporated them into a pasta entree with red and yellow peppers, cremini mushrooms and some roasted garlic. And for a final flourish, I sliced up several links of all-natural Chef Bruce Aidell’s Sun-Dried Tomato & Kale Smoked Chicken Sausagedelish!

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Brush cut sides of onions with oil and sprinkle each half with salt.

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Arrange onions cut side down on grill over medium heat and cook until well charred.

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Flip onions and cook cut side up until light charring develops on skin side.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • onions
  • (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • tablespoon minced fresh chives

Directions

  1. Whisk 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in bowl; set aside.
  2. Trim stem end of onions and halve onions from root end to stem end, leaving skin intact. (Root end can be trimmed, but don’t remove it.) Brush cut sides of onions with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle each half with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  3. Arrange onions cut side down on grill over medium heat and cook (covered if using gas) until well charred, 10 to 15 minutes, moving onions as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip onions and cook cut side up until light charring develops on skin side, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer onions cut side up to disposable pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Return disposable pan to grill and cook over medium heat (covered if using gas) until onions are tender and easily pierced with paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. When onions are cool enough to handle, remove and discard charred outer skin; arrange onions cut side up on large platter. Rewhisk vinaigrette and drizzle evenly over onions. Sprinkle with chives, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

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When onions are cool enough to handle, remove and discard charred outer skin; and arrange on a large platter.

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Finally, drizzle the vinaigrette over the grilled onions and top with chopped fresh chives.

LEFTOVERS:

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Slicing up the leftover grilled onions for a pasta entree.

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Sautéing the grilled onions with other veggies and chicken sausage before tossing with pasta.

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The pasta entree made with the leftover grilled onions, sautéed veggies, roasted garlic and chicken sausage and topped with a sprinkle of grated parm and chiffonade of fresh basil.

 

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