Tuscan Onion Confit

By • January 9, 2010 • 37 Comments

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Author Notes: For years now, on the day before Thanksgiving my mother has made what in my family goes by the slightly unappetizing name of "Tuscan Onion Goo." Inspired by a visit to a family-owned gem in Florence called Ristorante del Fagioli, this sour-sweet onion confit was originally served to her as an antipasto. She enjoyed it so much that she asked, in halting but enthusiastic Italian, if the waiter would tell her how it was made. He promptly ushered her into the tiny kitchen, where the sweaty, grinning chef himself showed her how to put together the dish. She took mental notes and then came home and recreated it, with a few small adaptations. The recipe has since become one of my mother's signatures, and Thanksgiving would simply not be Thanksgiving in our house without "Tuscan Onion Goo." It's a great addition -- or alternative -- to cranberry sauce. While the flavors are very different, it serves a similar role: the sweetness provides a counterpoint to other, more savory sides, and the acid in the vinegar cuts through some of the richness that often pervades the meal. The confit couldn't be easier to make, although it does require a bit of a time commitment. You can use frozen pearl onions, but it's worth trying with fresh cippollini. My mother insists that you have to be crazy to make it with anything other than frozen onions after the first time, but I find peeling cippollini somewhat cathartic. The confit keeps very well in the fridge, and it doesn't have to be limited to turkey; it's great with beef, pork and lamb as well.Merrill Stubbs

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 12 ounces small cipollini onions or one 10-ounce bag of frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup medium sherry
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Salt
  1. Using a small frying pan, lightly toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan back and forth to keep them from scorching. Set aside.
  2. Peel the onions -- either by blanching them first in boiling, salted water for about 30 seconds and then using a sharp paring knife to strip away the skins, or by simply going at the raw onions with the aforementioned paring knife. (Personally, I find blanching a waste of time here and prefer to just have at it.)
  3. Put the olive oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook gently (without browning) for about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until mostly reduced. Add 3/4 cup water, vinegar, sugar, raisins, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Simmer the mixture over the lowest heat possible for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. You may need to add more water from time to time if the mixture gets too thick and gooey or starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. It is finished when everything has caramelized well, and the flavors have blended together (you can take it as far as you’d like—I for one prefer a deep amber color).
  4. Cool and serve at room temperature. This can, and really should, be made ahead of time, as the flavors develop in complexity after a day or two. The confit will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Jump to Comments (37)

Tags: Holidays, Thanksgiving

Comments (37) Questions (1)

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15 days ago marsiamarsia

I found some locally grown and dried raisins, and they were perfect in this recipe. Larger than the boxed raisins we ate as kids and gave to our kids. This recipe earned its place among our holiday traditions from now on. I also think it would make a lovely homemade gift for favorite relatives and special friends. Many thanks.

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17 days ago sjlongin

I made this the day before Thanksgiving and it was delicious immediately. But I agree with some of the other poster that it got even better with each passing day! I did use frozen onions which worked fine because I once spent an entire afternoon peeling cipollinis and am permanently scarred by the experience : ) I served it with a roast goose (instead of turkey this year) stuffed with lemons, limes and herbs and seasoned with Chinese five spice, so the sweetness of the confit was a perfect accompaniment. I'll definitely be adding this to my list of holiday keepers!

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20 days ago RJ

I made this yesterday for the first time and thought it was very tasty. Like Merrill said it is chutney-like. It may be a sacrilege or just plain offensive to Merrill or Merrill's mother but I had to make do with Craisins since there were no raisins in the house. The flavor was good but I imagine it is better with raisins. And certainly the color would have been better and more appetizing -- more like the rich caramel and amber colors in the photo -- which is visually more appealing than 'pink.'

Merrill

20 days ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

No offense taken! :)

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20 days ago ichabod

Well, I take it all back. The confit was made on Wednesday night and was not to my satisfaction. I placed in the refrigerator. It tasted better on Thursday morning. By the time it was served at Thanksgiving dinner, it was excellent, a genuine hit.

Merrill

20 days ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Ha! So glad to hear this. We had it last night as well, and my mother also made it a few days ahead, so I will make a note that people may want to follow the same schedule. Happy Thanksgiving!

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22 days ago ichabod

As another thought, I might substitute dried cranberries for some of the raisins.

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22 days ago ichabod

I just made this and am a bit disappointed. It is too sweet and not enough onion flavor. Granted, I used frozen onions, but so did the author's mother. We're I to make this again, I'd cut the amount of raisins by half. Joyeux Thanksgiving.

Merrill

22 days ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sorry you were disappointed! It is indeed meant to be a sweet condiment (sort of chutney-like) , but if that's not what you were expecting I can see how you might have been surprised.

Paulnbuda

2 months ago Stubor

Ms. Stubbs, your recipe looks marvelous. As I am a diabetic, have you tried the recipe with less sugar, maybe just a teaspoon or two. Alternatively, I wonder how a tablespoon of honey would turn out?
Hm... further speculation; how about leaving out the sugar all together and add diced dates or sugar beets?

Merrill

about 1 month ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I'm not sure I'd recommend using less sugar, as the caramelization and thickening it causes are key to the structure and taste of the confit. If you try subbing in honey and/or adding dates let me know how it goes!

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2 months ago Mikhayla

I made this a few weeks ago and can't stop sharing the recipe! Absolutely delicious!! Thanks Merrill! A big fan.

Merrill

about 1 month ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad to hear it!

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5 months ago marsiamarsia

Cannot wait for Thanksgiving to try this! Looks scrumptious! But being among those who are not terribly fond of raisins, I was thinking: what about dates, cut to raisin size? I would value your opinion about this substitution, Merrill, as you know what it's supposed to taste like.

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8 months ago akrainey

After 3 hours of cooking, the mixture had not arrived at what I would consider a confit. I put it in the refrigerator at that point, but would love to get advice on making it more jam-like. Thank you!

Merrill

8 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sorry to hear you're having trouble! Did it look like the photo above?

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about 1 year ago Ham

This dish is perfect for the holidays. I would, however, use a dry sherry next time, or perhaps half of the sugar. It was a bit too sweet for my taste.

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about 1 year ago Whats4Dinner

My goodness! This looks so friggin' good!!! I'll make this in addition to our traditional "Asian" inspired fresh cranberry sauce (my son would "disown" me if I didn't make it ;-)

Stringio

about 1 year ago Margaret Waters

Fagioli was one of our favorites in Florence, close to our flat. This is delicious. Served it with grilled lamb the other night. Nobody touched my famous mint sauce. Didn't have enough raisins so dried cranberries were lovely. Making a quadruple batch for the crowd at Thanksgiving.

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about 1 year ago Marihada

Is the sherry meant to be dry or sweet?

Merrill

about 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I like to use a medium sweet sherry.

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about 2 years ago P.F.

This works equally well with shallots. Try buying similar-sized ones, breaking up the ones with multiple bulbs so all are reasonably equal in size. They'll need to cook a little longer than pearl onions. I've done this with sultanas as well, and just sherry vinegar instead of sherry and vinegar. Pretty much foolproof if you cook everything slowly.
I suspect that in Tuscany, one of the ingredients would have been saba, a sweet byproduct of winemaking.

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about 2 years ago Maria Nersesian

Utterly divine!

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about 2 years ago shankopotomus

Didnt have raisins so chopped dried apricots and prunes into the mix.

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about 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Taking you at your word that this can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, I'm making it over the weekend, for Thanksgiving. Yikes, it makes my mouth water just reading the recipe! ;o)

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about 3 years ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

Although I was momentarily indecisive about serving this without having previously made it, it was delicious with the ham and the turkey and the leftovers were equally good on crackers as an appetizer. It was an easy easy recipe, leftovers keep well, always have the ingredients on hand. It's definitely going in the "favorites" rotation.

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about 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

OMG, this is spectacular. I love it. Many thanks for sharing, Merrill. We'll definitely be adding this "goo" to our holiday table staples!