Spring Onion Relish

Ingredients

  • 1 ea. generic yellow onion, medium sized, diced fine
  • 6-9 excellent early-season onions, small to medium sized, including the green tops
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 grinds of black pepper from the mill
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 T picked thyme leaves or flowering thyme buds
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 T neutral oil, such as soy or pomace olive oil
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt plus more to taste


Method

Combine the diced onion, 1 T of the kosher salt, whole thyme sprigs, and the 4 T of neutral oil in a small saucepot. Place the pot over low heat and allow the diced onion to sweat until sweet, fragrant and translucent. This may take 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

While the diced onion sweats, prepare the other ingredients. Remove the greens from the young onions just above the swollen bulb. Reserve the greens from two of the onions – the rest of the greens may be put to another use. Wash and peel the bulbs, removing the root, but leaving the core intact. Wash the greens, and divide them into the firm, white base and the soft, green top.

Begin by slicing the onion bulbs into lengthwise sections, 1/6th of the bulb for smaller onions, 1/8th for larger. Transfer these petal-shaped slices to a steel bowl and add 1/2 T kosher salt and 6 T red wine vinegar. Toss to coat and allow to cure in the salt and vinegar.

Slice the firm white bases of the reserved onion greens into 1/8 inch slices, separating the slices into rings by rolling them gently between your fingers. Mince the softer green tops by cutting them into manageable lengths (3-4 inches), and then into very fine lengthwise strips. Bunch the strips of green onion together and cut across them to produce a very fine dice. Combine the white rings and the finely diced greens in a separate bowl and toss with 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to coat (this will help protect the more tender parts of the onion from the acidity of the vinegar). Once the onion tops are coated with oil, combine the contents of both bowls into and mix gently. Add the thyme leaves and black pepper to the resultant mix.

Return to the sweating diced onion on the stove. Once they are fully cooked (clear, sweat and fragrant) remove the whole sprigs of thyme from the pan and increase the heat to medium-high.

Cook the diced onions over medium-high heat to caramelize. The high heat needed to develop the richest caramelized color and flavour will likely cause the onions to stick to the bottom and sides of the hot pan in places – periodically scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to ensure that none of this tasty coloration is going too far, turning black and bitter. Once the onions are caramelized (which may take 8-10 minutes), remove the pan from the heat. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and stir into the caramelized onion, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to dissolve any of the richly colored onion juices that may have adhered.

Allow the caramelized onion to cool almost to room temperature before adding to the marinating onions in the bowl so that the residual heat of the cooked onions does not soften the marinated onions. Once combined, mix together and taste, adding a little more salt if required.

For maximum character, the relish is best served within a few hours of preparation. The vinegar in the recipe will continue to cure the young onions – breaking down their crisp texture and raw sharpness. However, the condiment will keep well for up to 5 days, covered, in the refrigerator, and still be quite tasty, if somewhat less unique, on subsequent days.