It’s camping season, BBQ season, time to play with open fire cooking. Combine that with onions and chicken, what could go wrong?

The directions are confusing and heavily footnoted, but with a little patience and a sharp spoon, it’s a really nifty “dinner for two” type of dish for a nice camping event

First, find the largest onions you can. I’m assuming this means root-cellar onions; something exceptionally large. The best I could do was some Spanish onions, but a Vidalia-type would take more filling.

Trim, peel, core and hollow the onions,

four soft-ball sized onions, which have been emptied like pumpkins or apples for stuffing.

I used a sharpened teaspoon to hollow them.

 

line with salt pork, fill with seasoned poultry,

the hollow onions with a fringe of prosciutto ready to be folded over the chicken, which has been densely stuffed inside.

Not quite a baked apple!

and roast in ashes, under coals, well wrapped in what the instructions call burlap. Be aware that modern burlap is not only not food-safe, it’s also not as closely woven as would be required, and consider several layers of cheesecloth, or perhaps using 100% linen scraps from making clothing, if you happen to have any.

 

I tried it two ways;

First I stuffed four onions, wrapped two in fabric, and put them in the oven. The ones in cloth took far longer to cook, and none of the onions managed to cook to the pointof collapse; there was not enough moisture barrier with the lack of the ash layer.

 

the stuffed onion cut in half showing the cooked poultry but not-well-enough cooked onion, on a plate.

it needed more time and more of a moisture barrier

For the second iteration I put a layer of half-onions in a pot, then a layer of prosciutto, the seasoned chicken, another layer of prosciutto, and another layer of onions. It had none of the character or tone of the chicken cooked inside the onion, it was actually kind of depressing.

If you wish to do group service, simply wrapping pieces of seasoned poultry and dressing it heavily with onions will get you just as close, but will also be just as distant. There are better recipes for group service.

a layer of halved onions tops a visible layer of prosciutto, which completely covers a thick layer of poultry, in a dutch oven.

While it’s a pleasant dish, it loses all of the character of the original. Don’t bother.

There is a plan in the works to make a go of it with charcoal and ash, as well as to wrap the onions in foil, but those are slightly down the road.

Edit! It’s 2013, and foil has been accomplished. It’s the way to go. In a slow oven of about 200* for 3 hours, then the heat boosted to 350 for an hour, the onions were soft and buttery without dissolving.

These can be pre-assembled, wrapped, and frozen with minimal loss of integrity.

A friend stuffed her onions with lamb, which was a similar delight. She pre-cooked the meat as meatballs, and prepared them for camping. It’s still, a year later, one of my favorites.

 

Partridge and pheasant are unavailable to me at this time of year.

Recipe: bird turnovers

Summary: onion stuffed with poultry

Ingredients

  • 1-2 chicken leg quarters (depending on size of chickens and size of onions)
  • 1/4 lb  prosciutto or thinly lined fatback, depending on taste and availability (or line with salted chicken skin, but have a barrier there)
  • ¼ tsp cloves,
  • ½ tsp cinnamon,
  • ¼ tsp sugar (reconsider if using a sweet onion)
  • 4 onions the size of a softball
  • (I did not use salt, as the prosciutto has enough for my tastes, yours may vary)

Instructions

  1. Cut the tops off of the onions, peel them, and hollow them out with a teaspoon as though they are tiny pumpkins. Save the onion trim for another dish.
  2. Bone the chicken leg, trim off all of the tendons you can deal with, and chop into pieces about the size of a date (or a chicken nugget)
  3. Fold the spices and sugar in to the chicken.
  4. Line the onions with prosciutto, leaving enough out to fold over the top
  5. Tuck the chicken inside the onions.
  6. Fold the prosciutto over the top, then put the onion caps back on.
  7. Cut cheesecloth to 8 pieces large enough to wrap and tie
  8. Wrap each onion in two layers of cheesecloth
  9. If you have a charcoal fire going, rake the coals to the side, and tuck the onions into the ashes.
  10. Cover them with more ash.
  11. Rake the coals back over the top.
  12. If not, put them in a pan in the oven,wrap with foil, and let them roast at about 350 for two hours or so, until the onions collapse.

RATINGS

-be careful cutting the onions, they fight back.

-have a use in mind for all of the shredded onion bits (I made baked beans with mine)

-outdoor cooking is outdoor cooking, know what you are getting into

-really not good for large scale service

+really nice, tasty, and fun for a small camp supper.

+once it’s in the fire, it’s low maintenance.

+really showy!

Preparation time at least an hour the first time; get a fire started, empty onions, cut up chicken.

Cooking time: 2-4 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): one per onion

NOTE:

if you don’t use pork, when you trim the chicken, salt the skin heavily and set it aside for 20 minutes to drain. Rinse off the salt, then use this skin to line the inside of the onions. If you do this, eliminate salt in the seasoning of the chicken, as it will overwhelm.

The goal is a bit of fat, a bit of salt, a bit of vapor barrier.

The original wants partridge, so do consider dark meat, turkey, duck,  rather than a less-rich bird.

The book calls for either breast of veal or mutton. About the only thing they have in common besides being ruminents is size, not texture, not flavor. I do plan to try the mutton variant some time.

(inspiration recipe in previous post)

 

veal which has been roasted, trimmed of fat, and cut to about 1.5 inch cube, ready to be cooked.

Cooled, cut, and ready to go

I had two chunks of veal breast, and only used one for last week’s post.

The other one was dinner tonight. This one called for verjus and pepper rather than mustard.

 

I cooked the onions rather longer, as I had more time to tend them, and added black pepper with the onions as well as with the meat. Next time, more black pepper. I used about two teaspoons of fresh-ground tellicherry peppercorns.

onions in a pan, cooked through

one of my favorite things

Salt went in with the onions, and verjus was used to deglaze the pan several times.
Instead of being earthy as the mustard iteration was, this was sharp and sweet. It was similar, of course, but different enough to stand alone.

Notes on verjus;

It’s the juice of unripe grapes. It can also be unripe other fruits, at need. I use pears for my home-made version.

It’s available as “sour grape juice’ through Middle Eastern markets.

Verjus is modernly prized as a way to add a grape-based acid to dishes without clashing with wine.

White balsamic vinegar is grape juice blended with white vinegar, and while similar in some respects, it’s different enough to not work as a good substitute.

Both versions are very pleasant, though different. I’ll make them again.

 

verjus being poured out of the wine bottle into the pan, by being poured over a spoon to prevent splashing

I used the spatula to prevent splashes. This verjus is quite mild.

Recipe:

  • One breast of veal
  • 2-4 medium onions,
  • 3 TBS olive oil to fry the onions in
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 c verjus

Ratings;

As with the other version of this recipe,

 

+   It’s hard to mess this up.
–    It’s also plain ol’ meat, with no fillers or ways to stretch it.
–    Needs a large enough sautee area to get the crust, and a cook with a good sense of “crisp” versus “burning.”
-/+  Needs a fair lot of onions, which can be precooked in a crockpot. The onions need a lot of time.
++   Delicious, if you like that sort of thing!
 The difference is that this calls for verjus, a somewhat expensive ingredient, and has a sharper tone, which would pair differently with the other dishes in a given course.

Back to Martino. It wasn’t a conscious decision to get hung on this book, it just fits the bill for so much of what we eat in winter.

“The Art of Cooking; The First Modern Cookery Book’

“the eminent Maestro Martino of Como”

as translated by Jeremy Parzen.

 

 Tonight it was A Gallimaufry, page 120. And it was delicious.
Take a mutton breast, or veal breast, cooked, or even half-cooked, then take some finely chopped onions that have been fried slowly in rendered lard, then take the meat, and cut it into small pieces the size of walnuts; then add all these things together in the pan and fry with a bit of strong mustard or a good quantity of pepper and verjus.
 Take veal. OK, I had two breasts thereof in the freezer, right in front, begging not to get freezerburnt.
 Roast it til done, or even half done. Fun! I don’t spit roast, I have a modern oven, but high heat and some salt makes for a nice crusty roast with a juicy pink interior.
a knife beginning to separate meat from rib-bones of a well-roasted piece of meat

I did let it cool some.

 Cut the meat into chunks the size of walnuts. I trimmed fat at this point. Veal breast has fat in similar layout to streaky bacon, so it was fairly simple to trim.
 Sautee some onions til brown in lard. well… I used olive oil. Philosophy aside, I simply have preferences.
 Add mustard. Yup, I used commercial. I like Zatarains, you can use what you like or make a great one with minimal effort.
 Cook mustard and onions together, I added salt, then tossed in the meat and let it cook to completion.
cubes of meat sauteeing with onions and mustard in a shallow pan

It's almost there, just needs a little more sear.

 It got earthy and deep, rich and hearty. The crusty surface, the juices cooked in with the mustard and sweet onions, the whole package was top-notch. It got eaten before final photos could be taken.
 I plan to make it again in a night or two with the rest of the meat and the alternate instructions, which call for “pepper”. hmm.. might have to do batches with each of several peppers.
 Recipe:
1 breast of veal
2 TBS olive oil (it calls for lard)
2-4 medium onions
1/4-1/2 cup of prepared mustard
Salt, unless you roasted the veal in salt. Don’t overdo, the mustard has plenty of flavor.
Ratings;
+ It’s hard to mess this up.
-It’s also plain ol’ meat, with no fillers or ways to stretch it.
-Needs a large enough sautee area to get the crust, and a cook with a good sense of “crisp” versus “burning.”
-/+Needs a fair lot of onions, which can be precooked in a crockpot. The onions need a lot of time.
+ Minimal fuss or experience needed to make it come out well.
++Delicious, if you like that sort of thing!
I call it a winner, but quite expensive. Tough meats won’t work, but if you can find a deal on veal, it is worthwhile.
 Pork cushion would also be a good choice