The other day while grilling some pork chops, I quickly tossed quarter-inch slices from a huge sweet onion in butter until they were tinged with brown and barely wilted. They were like some lovely mild onion noodle! I realized that if I sliced the onion rings through the center, I’d get strips to make something even closer to a noodle. So I did, and have serving them as a satisfying side dish for meats and poultry ever since, and alone as a “bowl of buttered noodles” for myself. It is a fast way to cook mild sweet onions that are at their juicy peak.
I’ve also made “noodles” by cutting leeks into fine julienne —thin matchsticks —steaming them quickly, then tossing them with crème fraïche or heavy cream. Voila, another satisfying, easy, oniony dish with the satisfactions of noodles.
Recipe: Onion Noodles
One or two large sweet onions (2 or 3 pounds total)
Freshly ground black pepper
Slice the top of the onion and peel off the outer skin. Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the onion crosswise into 1/4 slices. Cut each slice from the center to the edge to make the onion rounds into strips.
Heat some grape seed oil and butter in a large iron skillet or griddle, until hot but not smoking. Add enough onions to make a loose layer.
Frizzle the onions, tossing frequently with tongs until the are medium brown and starting to wilt. Remove to a platter. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Repeat cooking the onions in batches until all are browned and wilted.
They make a fine “bowl of noodles”, onto which you could plop a fried egg and some Parmigiano.
Recipe: Leek “Noodles” with Crème Fraïche
The effect of thin leek noodles in crème fraïche is a great deal more than the sum of its parts. The leeks take little time to slice into “noodles” and just a few minutes to cook. You can do both steps ahead, and reheat them at the last-minute with crème fraïche, making this a great dinner party dish.
10 medium leeks, about 2 ½ pounds
1/4 to 1/ 2 cup crème fraïche
1 teaspoon roasted hazelnut oil, OR ½ teaspoon finely slivered of lemon zest OR a few scrapings of nutmeg, to taste (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Trim the roots and tough green tops from the leeks, leaving about 1 inch of pale green. Slice each leek lengthwise into quarters; you will see that each section consists of neatly stacked layers of leek. Press each section gently against the work surface, and using a thin sharp knife, slice lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Or, if it’s easier to manage, slice each leek quarter lengthwise in halves or thirds to make thin strips (they don’t need to be perfect). Rinse the leeks in several changes of cold water to remove any grit. Drain the leeks.
Place the leeks in a large heavy skillet; add enough water to come halfway up the leeks. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until the leeks are almost tender, about 6 minutes. Add salt to taste, uncover and continue cooking, tossing frequently to separate the strands, until the leeks are very tender, a few minutes longer. Holding the leeks back with the lid, tilt the pan over the sink to let any remaining water drain away.
Place the pan of leeks back on the burner over moderate heat, tossing frequently, to let any residual water evaporate, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the crème fraïche and continue simmering the leeks, tossing them frequently. At first the crème fraïche will look watery; gradually, it will thicken again to make a luxurious coating on the leeks. Stir in the hazelnut oil or another flavoring if desired, and adjust the seasoning, adding freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve at once.