Worth the Tears

Onions get a bum rap for making you cry and for fouling your breath. Prepare a sharp, peppery salad with a raw onion as the base and, yes, you may seek some mouthwash. But introduce heat, and the intensity tones down. The flavor becomes mellow and sweet. When grilled, roasted, fried or stewed, this kitchen workhorse is more than worth the tears you’ll shed.


4 to 6 servings

5- to 6-lb. chicken, giblets removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 4 tsp. freshly chopped thyme, divided
1 bay leaf
2 small white or yellow onions, peeled and cut in half
4 whole cloves
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice

• Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
• Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Place the thyme stems inside the cavity. Place the bay leaf on the outside of 1 onion half and affix it to the onion using a whole clove. Pierce the other 3 onion halves with 1 clove each. Place the onions inside the chicken cavity.
• Combine the butter, 3 teaspoons chopped thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt into a paste. Massage half of the paste underneath the chicken skin. Massage the outside of the skin with the remaining paste.
• Tie the legs together with butcher string. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan on a rack. Bake 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let rest 15 minutes.
• Remove the onions from the cavity, discarding the cloves and bay leaf. Place the onions in a saucepan. Pour the pan drippings into a measuring cup and refrigerate 15 minutes.
• Carve the chicken and cover with foil.
• Remove the measuring cup from the refrigerator and skim off the fat. Add the remaining drippings to the saucepan with the onion. Cook, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes. Using a fork, mash together the onions and the drippings. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon chopped thyme. Spoon the onions over the chicken and serve.


4 to 6 servings

1 red onion, very thinly sliced
2 cups buttermilk
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup medium-grind cornmeal
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 to 2 quarts canola oil, for frying

• Place the red onion in a dish and cover with buttermilk, tossing to coat. Soak 1 hour.
• Mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
• In a large pot or Dutch oven, pour 1 to 2 quarts canola oil, enough to fill 2 inches of the pot. Heat the oil to 375 degrees.
• Using tongs, remove ¹∕³ cup onions from the buttermilk, place into the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off excess flour and carefully place the onions in the hot oil. Use a spider or a long-handled metal slotted spoon to lightly break up the onions; do not let them clump together.
• As soon as the onions turn golden brown, about 2 minutes or less, use the slotted spoon or spider to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat in batches.


6 servings

1½ lbs. cipollini onions, peeled (can use pearl onions)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup vegetable broth
¹∕³ cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch disks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro, for garnish

• Cook the onions in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer to a colander and run under cold water. Trim the ends.
• Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden.
• Stir in the vegetable broth, orange juice, balsamic, brown sugar, molasses, orange zest and coriander. Add the carrots.
• Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Stir occasionally, adding water if necessary.
• Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro.