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.