Tuscan Onion Confit

January 9, 2010


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

Ingredients

  • 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
In This Recipe

Directions

  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.

More Great Recipes:
Tuscan|Onion|Pine Nut|Raisin|Sherry|Vinegar|Vegetable|Fall|Winter|Thanksgiving|Side

Reviews (49) Questions (2)

49 Reviews

AllisonT November 27, 2017
Made this for Thanksgiving 2017 and it was a BIG hit. I used sweet sherry (my liquor-store dude claimed there was no such thing as "medium") and as a result mine was a sweeter-leaning compote instead of a savory one. Might try next time with dry sherry. Also, the outside layer of my (frozen) pearl onions was a little tough; will experiment with fresh or maybe just a heaping pile of thick-sliced Vidalias. Finally, make this one WAY ahead of time and let it settle in the fridge. I made it the Sunday before Thanksgiving and when I tasted it as it was cooling, I wasn't that impressed. By Thursday the flavors had mellowed and melded and it was fantastic. I'll jettison cranberry sauce next year and do a double recipe of this!
 
marsiamarsia November 18, 2017
So glad I was able to help, Assya. Happy Thanksgiving!
 
Assya November 25, 2017
Hi marsiamarsia! I finally made this last week and we had it for thanksgiving. It turned out really good although next time I will not cook as long (it was all the way sticky and sweet). Thanks a lot for your help!! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving dinner.
 
marsiamarsia November 17, 2017
Hi, Assya! I'd advise never using sherry cooking wine because it's loaded with salt. You want control of how much salt goes into your dish. Sherry vinegar is wonderful, but it IS a vinegar and tastes like vinegar. What you want is the medium dry sherry from a liquor store or in the wine aisle at your supermarket or grocery store. The alcohol will cook off as you heat it, leaving a wonderful, rich flavor behind. If you've ever eaten Beef Stroganoff (or any dish with "Stroganoff" in its title), it's usually the sherry that provides the distinctive flavor. <br /><br />Cipollini onions are seasonal, but they're usually for sale before Thanksgiving. I've never found them at any ol' grocery; they are usually offered by the more "discriminating" (i.e., expensive) food stores. They're fantastic!
 
Assya November 18, 2017
Thank you so much marsiamarsia! As you mentioned it’s mostly expensive food stores that carry them so I found some (on the other side of town). Very helpful comment for the wine, I will get that as well and make this ahead of thanksgiving. And you mention Strogonoff so that’s another recipe for me to try to finish the bottle!
 
Assya November 16, 2017
I would like to make this for thanksgiving but I’ve never cooked with sherry (or alcohol for that matter). I’m a bit confused because I found sherry vinegar, sherry cooking wine and I assume there’s another type of sherry wine at the liquor store. Which one is best to use?<br />Also, are cipollini onions seasonal? You’d think you’d easily find those in NY but no luck so far...
 
Assya November 16, 2017
Thank you in advance!!
 
HappyHugs December 4, 2015
I am making this Right Now -- it smells wonderful! <br />I assume that "simmer on lowest possible heat" means to simmer uncovered? I would guess that is how the liquid cooks down, but I am feeling slightly anxious...
 
zoemetro U. November 26, 2015
It is Thanksgiving morning, I made this last night and just tasted it---WOW! I forgot how amazing this tastes. Why did I wait 12 months to make this again?!? Thank you FOOD 52.
 
Victoria W. November 23, 2015
Peel cipollini by par-boiling them! The skins slip right off.
 
Jen December 24, 2014
I have made this several times and my husband and I love it. For whatever reason it takes much longer to comer together. Several hours more on low heat. Was wondering if anyone ever tried to make this in a crockpot. We have a mini one that would work in size. Love your thoughts and thanks for sharing the recipe.
 
Cheryl B. December 6, 2015
Just found this recipe and your inquiry about making it in a crockpot. I was wondering about that, too. Did you try it? If so, how'd it turn out?
 
marsiamarsia December 4, 2014
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.
 
sjlongin December 1, 2014
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!
 
RJ November 28, 2014
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.'
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. November 28, 2014
No offense taken! :)
 
ichabod November 28, 2014
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.
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. November 28, 2014
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!
 
ichabod November 26, 2014
As another thought, I might substitute dried cranberries for some of the raisins.
 
ichabod November 26, 2014
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.
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. November 26, 2014
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.
 
Stubor October 19, 2014
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?<br />Hm... further speculation; how about leaving out the sugar all together and add diced dates or sugar beets?
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. November 1, 2014
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!
 
Mikhayla October 7, 2014
I made this a few weeks ago and can't stop sharing the recipe! Absolutely delicious!! Thanks Merrill! A big fan.
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. November 1, 2014
So glad to hear it!
 
marsiamarsia August 2, 2014
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.
 
akrainey April 9, 2014
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!
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. April 9, 2014
Sorry to hear you're having trouble! Did it look like the photo above?
 
Ham December 11, 2013
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.
 
Whats4Dinner November 21, 2013
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 ;-)