Monday, March 12, 2007

Condiment of the Month: Onion and Shallot Confit

What do food bloggers do on their vacations? Things like staying up until 4am (well, it was really only 3am before the time change) reading 19 pages of a thread on eGullet containing some 600 posts on a wonderful condiment known as onions confit. I don't even know what I was trying to look up, but I got sucked into the onion confit thread, and before I knew it, dawn was approaching! But before I went to bed, I threw together an inaugural batch of the stuff in my trusty crock pot. And faithful readers know how much I LOVE letting my crock pot do the work for me!

I read every post on eGullet and took each cook's advice into consideration before deciding on the following recipe and method:
Onion and Shallot Confit

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (you could swap this out with sherry or port or cognac or red wine)
1 tablespoon beef base (demi-glace would be better, or some reduced homemade stock)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon pepper jelly (optional)
freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)
6 medium onions, peeled and sliced (ironically, the harsher-tasting the better, as they will yield the sweetest confit)
3 ginormous shallots, peeled and sliced (probably the equivalent of at least 6 regular ones)

*You may also choose to add some herbage such as thyme and/or bay leaves or even rosemary, but I wanted to keep mine simpler for this first attempt.

Add the olive oil, butter, vinegar, beef base, brown sugar, pepper jelly, and black pepper to the bottom of a crockpot set on high. Once the butter has melted, stir the ingredients together, and then add the onions and shallots. Mix until well-coated. Cover and cook on high overnight (about eight hours). You might be able to cook it all the way on high in less time, but after eight hours, I turned mine down to low and let it go another eight hours or until it reached a thick, jammy consistency, and a deep, brown color. After you eat a few spoonfuls and use some on whatever you're having for dinner, you'll end up with about a pint of the lovely stuff, which reportedly lasts a very long time in the fridge (but use a glass jar to keep everything else in the fridge from smelling oniony!).

Now that you have a pint of delicious and savory onions confit, what will you do with it?'s Sunday night, which is often steak night here at my house. So I decided to season some ribeyes lightly instead of marinating or heavily rubbing them, as is normally my way. Then when they were seared but still quite rare, I topped them with a generous amount of the onion and shallot confit and some Danish bleu cheese and ran them under the broiler for two minutes. WOW! I served the steaks with some twice-baked style mashed potatoes, a potato mash that was augmented with a tablespoon or two of mayo and a couple of chopped green onions and a handful of shredded cheese with a little more cheese melted on top. Delish!

Below are some other ideas for using onions confit, pilfered from the eGullet posters. As you will see, you can use it on pretty much anything that would benefit from soft, sweet, richly-flavored, caramelized onions. So fire up that crock pot and get to slicing!

accompaniment to grilled meats

base for Alsatian onion tarts (pate brisee topped with onion confit, gruyere cheese, perhaps a few Nicoise olives, and/or anchovies)

accompaniment to baked brie or fried goat-cheese

heat up some canned beef bouillon and add a tablespoon of confit for "instant French Onion soup"

mixing a portion with some blue cheese (Stilton is good in this) and smearing it on a baguette

killer topping for pasta after adding some (more) balsamic vinegar

on a baked potato

in some sort of heavenly sandwich or a ploughman's lunch kind of thing, with some exceedingly ripe cheese

over scrambled eggs

with runny cheese, crackers, and a salad

with a crumbly cheese of some sort and pears

poached eggs crowned with the confit

as a topping for bruschetta

with gnocchi

on a pissaladiere

on top of focaccia

portobello mushroom tarte tatin, optional chopped anchovies added near the end

atop a french bread slice, of which has been liberally spread with boursin cheese, and then topped with about a tablespoon of confit - toasted until the bread is crunchy

onion confit mixed with 2 tab of cream and 2 egg yolks as a filling for an onion tart

with pork chops

burgers off the grill topped with confit and sharp cheddar

over pirogis

on some rustic style pizza with roasted peppers and a sprinkling of gorganzola

over some smashed red potatoes with butter

with brie and crackers

a couple of all-beef hot dogs, lathered with a layer of onion confit along the bottom edge of a toasted roll, and the upper half topped with sauerkraut

as a garnish on some sliced-steak canapes

scoop of them spread over some rare london broil slices with some wonderful bleu cheese crumbles over top

duxelles in combination with the onion confit and shredded meat to make a filled bread roll

combine the onions with loads of garlic (perhaps up to several heads) and several crushed and chopped tomatoes... could take on a very nice garlicky, oniony, saucy texture

the onions, garlic, some cayenne, and maybe an assortment of fresh and dried chiles

in mashed potatoes

eaten by the spoonful!

*Follow-up: I found a new and wonderful use for this stuff. We had cube steaks for dinner, and I made the most delicious pan gravy using the onion and shallot confit. I whisked in a few tablespoons of flour into the pan drippings and added a couple of tablespoons of the confit. After I cooked this roux for a minute or two, I whisked in a cup of hot beef broth, and then once the sauce came together, I added enough half-n-half to reach a desired consistency. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and that was it. It truly was the best gravy ever!


John Levon said...


Burnt black after 8 hours on high, lucky my house didn't burn down.

In retrospect, it seems obvious, no cookjng liquid, so of course it'll burn... Steer clear of this one.

Joy Bugaloo said...

I can't imagine what went awry in your slow cooker, but if you Google recipes for caramelized onions in the crock pot, there are TONS that recommend doing it the same way I did--with a little fat, cooked on high for upwards of 10 to 12 hours! The slow cooker environment is moist, and the onions make their own cooking liquid. Maybe try a lower setting on your appliance? But I assure you, it's a tried and true practice. Sorry for your bad experience.

John Levon said...

No need to apologise, not your fault... chalking this one down to experience I suppose.