Monday, April 4, 2011

Kitchen Play: Onion-Bacon Salad with Warm Crème Fraîche Dressing

Whoa. This Kitchen Play thing? Very cool. Have you been following the monthly menus?

Kitchen Play: each month a Progressive Party is hosted. Six food bloggers are assigned one of the following courses: cocktail, amuse bouche, salad, appetizer/soup, entrée and dessert. All six bloggers are challenged to incorporate the same product or kitchen tool into six different courses.

I was expecting this opportunity to challenge me, and challenge it did. I was given the salad dish and the secret ingredient was...

...onions. Fresh dry bulb onions. As opposed to storage onions. Because apparently there is a difference...I wasn't even aware there was a difference!

From the Onions USA website:

Onions can be divided into two categories: spring/summer fresh onions and fall/winter storage onions.

Spring/Summer Fresh Onions
Spring/summer fresh onions are available in yellow, red and white throughout their season, March through August. Fresh onions can be identified by their thin, light-colored skin. Because they have a higher water content, they are typically sweeter and milder than storage onions. This higher water content also makes them more susceptible to bruising.

With its delicate taste, the spring/summer onion is an ideal choice for salads and other fresh and lightly-cooked dishes.

Fall/Winter Storage Onions
Fall/winter storage onions are available August through April. Also available in yellow, red and white, storage onions have multiple layers of thick, dark, papery skin. Storage onions have an intense flavor and a higher percentage of solids.

Storage onions are the best choice for savory dishes that require longer cooking times or more flavor.

When I received information about my Kitchen Play challenge, it was just at the tail end of last season (August), so I was able to acquire the fresh dry bulb onions before storage onions made their way into my produce store. Then just for kicks, I really paid attention to the condition of my fresh onions and, when storage onions came in, I made comparisons. Well. The above descriptions? Bang on. Crazy. Shows how much attention I pay.

But - salad! I hope you like what I've come up with. It was inspired by an Alsace tart I read about in an old issue of Bon Appétit.

I served the salad in bread bowls I made with mini tart shells and one of my favorite pizza dough recipes. I've provided a Martha Stewart pizza dough recipe below but feel free to use any recipe you'd like.

You may wonder about the lemon juice-onion mix: lemon juice takes any sting out of the onions so their flavor remains without being overpowering. We found that the fresh onions are indeed milder than fall storage onions so go with your instincts - taste a slice and make your to lemon or not to lemon decision then!

Onion-Bacon Salad with Warm Crème Fraîche Dressing

Serves 2

2 tablespoons crème fraîche (I found some in store but you can make your own as well)
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces bacon, cooked and roughly chopped, divided
1 small fresh onion, halved and very thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
4 cups field greens mix

Peel onion. Stand onion on its end and cut in half. Slice onion into very thin half rings using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Place in a small bowl and toss with juice of half a lemon.

Blend crème fraîche and sour cream in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over very low heat till warm. Stir in 1 ounce of the chopped bacon. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Toss salad greens with onions. Place onto 2 serving plates or in bread bowls. Drizzle with warmed dressing and garnish with reserved 5 ounces bacon. Serve.

Pizza Dough Bread Bowls
Makes four 4 1/2 inch tart shells
Martha Stewart

1/2 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

Stir water, sugar and yeast in a bowl until yeast is foamy.

Measure flour into a large bowl and stir in salt. Add the oil and the yeast mixture. Stir till flour is incorporated and dough becomes stiff. On a lightly floured surface, knead several minutes till dough becomes smooth. Shape dough into ball.

Place dough into an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot till doubled, about 45 minutes. Remove plastic wrap, punch down dough. Fold dough into itself a few times and leave smooth side up. Let rise a second time till doubled, about 45 minutes.

You can also use a breadmaker: measure the water, sugar, yeast and olive oil into the bowl of your machine. Add the flour and salt. Set to 'dough' and press Start. Once the cycle is complete, proceed as follows:

Punch down dough and place on clean work surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Loosely cover 3 dough pieces with plastic wrap.

Roll out each dough piece into a 5 inch circle. Fit into tart shells, lightly pressing dough to fluted sides. Leave any overhang. Prick with a fork several times and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake till lightly browned.

Alternatively, you could drape each rolled out piece of dough over a bowl-shaped heat-tolerant item. I did this with a small brioche pan for one of my bowls, just to see how it would turn out. I found the fluted aspect didn't come through as well as I would have liked though.

Lucky for you, this year's fresh onions are most likely on the market already, till August, so go pick some up and after you've tried my recipe (you'll try it, right??), come back and let me know what you think - and don't forget to enter the blogger contest for $100! All you have to do is try the recipe - even if it doesn't work for you or you don't like it - and then you can enter!

Onion Prep Tips
Prepare onions as close to cooking or serving time as possible.
An onion's flavor deteriorates and its aroma intensifies over time.
Refrigerate onions 30 minutes before preparation to prevent tearing.
To remove the smell of onions, rub hands and equipment with lemon
juice or salt.
Store your onions in a cool, dry ventilated place – not in the refrigerator.
Lack of air movement reduces storage life.

For more information on onions of all kinds plus recipes and more, head over to the National Onion Association's website!

I was compensated in cash to create my own recipe using the secret ingredient 'onions' however I purchased all ingredients for the recipe myself.

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