My mom always makes this dish for holiday meals. It’s one of those recipes with the satisfying quality of looking like a seriously complicated, fancy dish – while being actually incredibly simple to put together. With it’s festive look, it’s always a winning dish, and people normally ooh and aah over it when it is served (sometimes they even clap). Then comes that blissful silence when everyone is too busy eating to talk. I’m normally a social person at the dinner table, but that silence of people just enjoying themselves, for those precious few seconds, is amazing.
This dish can be made ahead of time and warmed up right before serving (another bonus!)
What about you guys? What’s your ultimate, go-to recipe that just screams festive?
Festive Stuffed Onions In Tangy Sauce:
Serves: makes about 30 stuffed onions
Estimated Time: 1 hour prep + 20 minutes actual work + 2 hours cook
Kosher Classification: Meat
6-7 medium onions (choose ones that don’t look like they’re growing Siamese twins)
250 grams ground beef (if you want to use vegetarian ground “meat”, you will need an egg
or ground flax with water to keep it together)
1/2 cup rice / quinoa
1 Tbs Baharat (or mixture of cinnamon and cumin)
1/2 Tbs salt
1 Tbs oil
1/4 cup regular or date honey
1/4 cup lemon juice OR pomegranate syrup
3 Tbs sugar
A handful dried fruits (such as prunes, cranberries, dried apricots, etc)
This recipe requires making THREE things, which is why it may seem complicated at first, and then putting them together. Even though it seems like there’s a lot of steps to this recipe, you don’t have to make each of the three things exclusively – you can multi-task on all three of them, because they all have a lot of waiting time in their preparation. I will give here the way I multitask this recipe (“meanwhile” is going to be a key word here), but you can see what is most comfortable for you and just do that.
Start off by chopping off the edges of each onion. Then, slice each one down the middle (length-wise – meaning, NOT the way in which after you cut it you can see its rings). We are eventually going to remove each layer of the onion and use it separately, so make sure you cut it only until the middle, and not more. This is also why it is best to NOT use onions which actually have two centers. If you don’t really get it now, don’t worry. It will all be clear when you actually start taking apart the layers.
Put the onions in a large pot and cover with water, then boil until they are soft. I always just boil for one hour and then let it sit, covered, in the boiling water to soften even more. I recommend you open your windows and close bedroom doors because this step smells really funky.
While the onions are cooking, soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. I used quinoa this time.
While the rice is soaking, melt the sugar with some honey (I used date honey) on a large skillet and then let it cool. It’s okay if it’s not a completely smooth caramel and it’s a little grainy – it will have time to cook and melt some more in a few more steps. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on the caramely surface of the skillet.
Once the rice is done soaking, mix it into the meat, and mix in the tablespoon of oil, the Baharat (or a mixture of ground cinnamon and cumin), and the salt.
If you want to make this with vegetarian “meat”, make sure it is sticky enough to clump into a ball when you squeeze it in your hands. Most brands of soy “ground meat replacements” I have tried are too dry for this, so I have to add an egg (or, if I’m in a vegan phase, I mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 2 tablespoons hot water, let it sit for a minute so that it “gels”, and mix that in instead of the egg). Let this meat mixture sit for a few minutes so that all the flavors become fully absorbed.
Meanwhile, assuming the onions are cool enough to handle by now, start separating the onion layers from each other. Each layer is actually going to be filled with meat, so it’s important that you keep them intact as much as possible. This takes some fine motor skills, but you’ll find that you get the hang of it quite quickly.
The trick to doing this successfully is actually very simple: To peel the outermost layer (each time you peel), think of it not as peeling that layer off, but rather as gently scooping out the rest of the onion which that layer is wrapping.
Gently put the your finger tips underneath the layer,
Cup the onion with your hand as you slide it under the layer,
And voila! The onion (minus one layer) is in one hand, and the peel is the other, completely intact!
Repeat for all the layers of all the onions.
By the time you finish this part, the meat-rice mixture should have had plenty of time to rest and absorb the flavors. Take a small lump of the mixture (about a tablespoon or less), and squeeze it into a tight ball.
Place that ball on the inner side of an onion layer, at the edge.
Start rolling the onion with the meat ball until it is completely closed. It will look like a little mini-onion.
Place the stuffed onion in the skillet, with the flap down so that it does not open during cooking.
Repeat this process until you run either out of meat or out of onions. In an ideal world, they will run out at exactly the same time. That doesn’t always happen. But if I with my OCD ways could deal with it, I’m sure just about anyone can.
Squeeze the onions tightly together as you spiral around the pot and towards the center.
When you are finished, mix together the honey, pomegranate syrup (or lemon juice), tablespoon of oil, and sugar, and pour evenly over the onions.
Push a big handful of dried fruits (I like to use prunes or cranberries) between the onions and around them.
Bring the skillet’s contents to a boil.
Cover and cook over very low heat for 2-3 hours (I like to cook it for 3 hours if I am going to serve it right way after, or for 2 if I know I will be re-heating it in the skillet afterwards).
You can get a nice effect by covering the onions with a plate instead of the skillet’s lid. That way the plate is sitting inside the skillet and kind of squishing the onions together even more. I couldn’t do this little trick with my cast iron pot, which was way too big for this recipe but sadly was also the only pot / skillet-like thing we had left available (!) to use in the house. #Passover madness.
- Cut off the edges of 6-7 medium onions. Cut halfway into each one, peel and boil until soft (about an hour). Leave in water until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, rinse and soak 1/2 cup of rice or quinoa for half an hour
- Mix 250 grams ground beef (or a vegetarian substitute) with the rice, 1 Tbs Baharat (or a mix of cinnamon and cumin), 1/2 Tbs salt, and 1 Tbs oil in a bowl ans let stand for a few minutes.
- In a large, heavy skillet melt 3 Tbs sugar and let cool until hard. Drizzle 1 Tbs oil on top of the hardened caramel.
- Rinse the onions and peel away the layers of each one, keeping the each layer intact.
- Place a small ball of meat mixture at the end of one peel and roll it up to close. Place in the skillet with the flap on the bottom.
- Repeat for all the onion layers, arranging them close together in a spiral pattern in the skillet.
- Mix 1/4 cup honey or date honey with 1/4 cup lemon juice or pomegranate syrup and 1/4 cup of water. Pour evenly over the onions.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook covered over low heat for 2-3 hours.