07 January 2013

A Near Perfect Side Dish

A close reading of the New York Times magazine a couple of weeks ago resulted in the perfect side dish for our Christmas dinner. In fact, it might be the perfect side dish for nearly any roast meat meal, in that it seems like a starch, but it's really mostly vegetables. I'd heard of soubise, but because I'm not Julie Powell and I haven't cooked absolutely everything in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, I had never tried it. Big mistake. We will have to make up for lost time by putting on the menu several times a year.

Essentially, it's cooked onions thickened with a bit of rice. Or, a reverse risotto - a little rice with a lot of seasoning. And it's really really good, not to mention easy, and forgiving. You could probably even leave the cheese out if you felt that was necessary. What's not to like?

Adapted from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

1/2 cup rice, (arborio or carnaroli)
4 quarts water
1 1/2 T. salt (to salt the water)
4 T. butter (one-half stick)
2 pounds yellow onions
1/8 t. pepper (a few good grinds)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (or swiss)
2 T. softened butter
1 T. minced parsley.

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and put 4 quarts of water on to boil.

2. Meanwhile peel your onions, cut them in half the long way, and slice thinly (into half rings).

3. Heat the 4 T. of butter in a three or four quart flameproof lidded casserole. When the butter is melted and foaming, stir in the onions.

4. Add the 1 1/2 T. salt to your vigorously boiling water, pour in the rice and boil for exactly five minutes. Drain immediately.

5. Stir the drained rice into the butter-coated onions, add the 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for one hour, stirring occasionally if you must. The rice and onions should become very tender and will smell heavenly. Taste and re-season if necessary. (Pause here if you're making a big meal and have lots of other things to cook - the onions will hold nicely. Reheat before the finishing additions.)

6. Just before serving, stir in the cream and cheese and then the softened butter. Taste again for seasonings and turn into a (hot covered vegetable) dish. Serve with sprinkled parsley.


Kizz said...

It's got heavy cream, butter, and cheese. I don't see how it could be bad.

edj3 said...


Anon said...



Mental P Mama said...

Looks heavenly.

leanne said...

What Kizz said :)

That was one of the recipes I had clipped from that article. And still need to make. Maybe this weekend...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

1/2 cup rice with 2 lbs onions? How interesting. I'll make this tonight to accompany baked chicken. I don't have a casserole dish though - maybe I can use a pie plate with tinfoil over it?

OK, now I'm hungry.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

PS I just read the article you mentioned, and I wish I'd seen it before the holidays. We had 17 people (including me & husband and my kids) for Christmas Eve dinner, 21 people for Christmas Day dinner. Christmas Eve was ad hoc - basically a meal of appetizers, plus a turkey my sister-in-law brought - but on Christmas Day we cooked a huge roast beef with mashed potatoes with gravy, sauteed green beans and a salad. My husband was in charge and he meted out each task, just like Sam & Mark suggest. It was fun to have so many guests involved in the cooking, but it got crazy toward the end. Cooking green beans simultaneous with the gravy -- our stove is just not big enough!

niobe said...

I'm going to see if I can talk Gray into making this for us. (he's home for a looong winter break and doing lots of cooking)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It sounds amazing and I will try it. I am digging the quinoa risotto I've been making of late.

Anonymous said...

I made soubise once to go with a veal roast from a recipe out of La Bonne Cuisine de Madame Ste. Ange, which had just come out and is sort of the ur-maximalist version of MAFC.

The veal roast was great, but I caught my mother-in-law in the kitchen, eating the rest of the sauce out of the pot with a spoon. I joined her. : )