Every now and then I search for meal inspiration in my old green recipe box. In the pre-internet days I was an avid collector of recipes which I clipped and glued on index cards, or I hand-wrote the recipe onto the cards. I have several hundred recipes, most of which I don’t make. But all of them sound good in some way. Sometimes I try to be faithful to what’s on the card and the rest I keep just for inspiration.
Southwestern Chicken Stew…a reason to use Pearl Onions again
This week I plucked out a recipe from the Green Recipe Box for Southwestern Chicken Stew. “Southwestern” is a misleading name compared to the ingredients in this recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine (8/91). More on that in a bit. One of the ingredients, decidedly not southwestern, ispearl onions.
Pearl onions, or what non-botanists call miniature onions*, are super cute next to their ginormous onion cousins in the produce department. They also look pretty in their glass jars, pickled, and awaiting their plop into a classic cocktail. Pickled cocktail onions wait a freakin’ long time these day because not very many cocktails use them. Case and point: They’re used in Gibson’s. That’s a real drink.
For cooking, too, pearl onions are not a frequently mentioned ingredient. Though if you Google them, there are plenty of recipes for glazed, caramelized, and creamed pearls. Apparently, they are known on many Thanksgiving tables. Pearl onions occasionally come across my radar as ingredients in soups and stews. And, more often than not, I opt to chop one big onion than to deal with several little ones.
This week I decided to abide the recipe and go pearl. That meant peeling 16 onions. Getting through the peeling is the Mt. Everest of using onions (well, it’s more like a poorly marked road detour, but I’m going for something dramatic in my metaphor). Anyway, instead of the 1/2 minute or so it takes to coarsely chop a big onion, it takes many minutes to peel the baby onions who shyly want to keep their skin on.
Mentally preparing myself, I peeled while listening to some tunes. Before long I had a beautiful bowl full of peeled pearl onions.
I cooked the recipe below with my usual goal to make the recipe fit the way I cook. For example, I used a little less meat, and a little more vegetables. Healthy! I used the practically the same ingredients, except I forgot to buy cilantro. And, since there’s not much to give this recipe a southwestern flair, I substituted Mexican Chorizo for (Polish) Keilbasa as the recipe calls for.
I used fresh corn (because it’s August and the farmers are throwing corn at me), and didn’t coat the chicken in flour. That’s a cute step adding thickness to the sauce. It also adds time and an extra plate and spoon. Also, unnecessary calories and gluten. So, no.
In the end, the dish turned out very well, and pearl onions were worth the work. When I cut into the first pearl onion and popped it in my mouth, I remembered why I like them. They are sweet and oniony, a completely different bite than hitting even a large chunk of a cooking onion.
*In other words pearl onions aren’t miniature cooking onions, they really are their own thing. In fact, Wikipedia says they are more related to leeks than onions.