Monday, August 15, 2016

Game of Thrones Candied Onions

Ooooo, I am in a quirky mood today!  I wanted to do something different for this blog post but the new cookbooks were not meeting that need.  What to do???

There is a section in my cookbook collection that is for silliness:  a Star Trek cookbook, a Green Eggs and Ham cookbook, and so on.  What caught my eye today was The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook, by Alan Kistler.

ISBN 978-1-4405-3872-8
It is an amusing book if you are a GofT fan (I've read the books).  The recipes are mostly standard and common ones, like leek soup, black bread, rib roast, leg of lamb.  But their names are tied to characters and places from that world and that makes it cute.

In Chapter 2, "A Morsel in a Moment:  Appetizers and Snacks", I found

The Cheesemonger's Candied Onions (page 52)

1 bag (2 cups) peeled pearl onions
2 teaspoons sugar or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 cup cold water

And water
1.  In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, combine onions, sugar, salt, and butter with 1 cup cold water; bring to a simmer.

2.  Cook gently until all water is absorbed and onions are coated in a light glaze, about 5 minutes.

3.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook slowly until glaze browns and onions attain golden-brown appearance, about 5 minutes more.

4.  Alternative method:  Once liquid is reduced to a glaze, put the entire pan in a preheated 350 degree oven, and roast until browned.

(Ed.:  The recipe suggests you use fresh onions if possible; they are better than the frozen and peeled kind.)

My Notes

It took me about 20 minutes to peel the onions, which is what the book said it would take.  I put the ingredients into the cast iron skillet in the order it listed but I then wished I had added the onions after I had stirred the other ingredients together first.  It didn't appear to be a problem, though.

I was suspicious about the timing listed in the recipe:  using medium heat, would the 1 cup of water be absorbed or evaporated in about five minutes?  The same went for step three.  It just didn't seem like enough time.

Here was my dilemma:  Do I follow the instructions according to time?  Or according to description?  I chose description.

Starting to simmer
It took about 5 minutes for the water to simmer.  Then another 30 minutes or so to reduce the water to almost nothing.  To achieve "cook gently", I turned the heat down to medium low once the simmer started.  Perhaps too gently?

Water nearly gone after 30 minutes
Then it took another 30 minutes to get some browning of glaze and onions.  That was with the heat to low.  Perhaps too low?

Some browning.  This is where I stopped the cooking
When finished it appeared that the onions were thoroughly cooked and very soft.  What confused me about that was the recipe said fresh onions are better than frozen because of "the sweetness and crunch."  What crunch?

The Verdict

The recipe did not specify serving them hot, warm, or cold.  I tried one hot, then one warm, then one cold after it had been chilled for a few hours.

Hot:  Very tasty!  Lightly sweet from the glaze, lightly sweet and meaty from the onion, and, surprisingly, I got a mild acid, vinegar taste, too.  It was a nice surprise.  This would be good to serve as a condiment next to roast meat.

Warm:  Even better!  Buttery, a mild onion flavor, and a light blend of sweet and salty.  I noticed a bit of a crunch from a larger onion.  I tasted the glaze without the onion, too, and liked that.  That is where I got the acid flavor.  This would be good as a condiment or hors d'oeuvre.

Cold: Tasty!  Like the hot version in flavor but a bit more sticky.

I liked the warm version the best because the flavors were more distinct.


To be honest, I expected either a thicker sugar coating on the soft onions or a thin but crackly candy coating on nearly raw onions.  I got neither.  I am glad the onions were soft and not bitey.  I'm not sure if I would want more sweet coating on them or not.

So what sort of candied onion recipes might I find in our world?

This looked good:  Candied Red Onions.  It uses red onions, red wine vinegar, and sugar.

This, too:  Candied Onions.  It uses white onions, salt, butter, sugar, and steak sauce.

The idea that did not look good was someone using pearl onions dipped in chocolate as a prank!  (Although, hmmmm.  A cooked onion dipped in dark chocolate?  Might be worthwhile, especially if it is a little salty.)

The basic idea of all these recipes is to get the onion cooked enough to be enjoyable eating and then getting a tasty glaze on it to enhance the flavor.  I think you could play around with the spices and liquids to customize the flavor to match your entree.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Custard, Again. Baked and with Eggs (intentionally)

Whew!  July was a busy month and I barely got to cook, much less cook for my blog.

My experience with eggless custards and the nifty book, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons,

ISBN-13:  978-1-4494-2313-1

made me want to try one of her egged custards.

Reference Custard #2
How would unbaked be different from baked?  Eggless from egged?  I had to try.  (Besides, the weather has been very hot and I have learned that custards are an excellent dessert:  cool, light, not too sweet, and excellent with berries.  Refreshing!)

My Redaction

1 quart whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon moscato wine (sweet)
1/2 tablespoon rose water
generous grating of nutmeg

I like the dramatic look of this picture.
All ingredients were mixed well.  The nutmeg tends to float on top; I don't know how to change that.

The custard mix was ladled into small glass and ceramic bowls.  Each one held about 4 ounces of the mix even if the bowl could have held more.  

The oven was preheated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

I placed the bowls in a deep pan, placed the pan on the oven rack, then poured hot water into the pan until the water level was close to even with the custard mix level.

Pre-water.  It is easier to move into the oven that way.
The custards were baked for 30 minutes.  That is when a knife blade dipped into the center of a custard came out clean.  Visually the custard was "jiggly" and a little puffy.

Dipping in the knife
The blade is clean
The pan was carefully removed (no hot water spills!) and set out to cool a little.  Then I used a spatula to lift the bowls from the water.  They went right into the refrigerator without any covering.

The Verdict

After chilling them for a few hours, I served the custard.  It was firm, smooth, and pleasant to look at.  The berries sat on top instead of sinking in (as they did for the unbaked custards).  

A spoonful shows how well the custard set up:  you can see an edge on it.

The texture was smooth, creamy, soft, delicate.  

The flavor was not at all what I expected.  I loved the custard taste and feel but I could not taste the brandy or the wine and only tasted a little of the nutmeg.  It mostly tasted like rosewater.  

I love rosewater but that was not the only flavor I wanted.  I also love the brandy and nutmeg flavor combination so I was disappointed.  I don't mind I didn't taste the wine and perhaps next time I would make it a little sweeter.  However I would use less rosewater and much more brandy and nutmeg!

Vanilla would be good, too.

There were enough bowls of custard that I tried it in different ways.  My favorite was for breakfast with some buttered, spiced crumbs on top along with a little fruit. 

This was a success.  I would just change the flavorings to suit my preferences.  Yum!