Cipolle Ripiene -- Stuffed Onions
This is a dish from the Canavese area of Piemonte, and they're traditionally prepared for country fairs, using leftover boiled or roasted meats, or if there were none, sausages. In other words, something that could be quite frugal, though people could and did embellish them considerably. Depending upon how you make them, these will be tasty antipasti or could be served as a part of a light meal. In his Grande Libro della Cucina Italiana, Alessandro Molinari Pradelli says you'll need:
- 6 large golden onions
- 16 ounces (350 g) lean boned veal or pork (or use leftovers), ground
- 1 1/4 cups (125 g) bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup (60 g) unsalted butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
Peel the onions and briefly blanch them in salted water. Remove them from the water, and when they have cooled cut them in half horizontally, then scoop out the middle sections to make so many bowls. Mince what you scoop out.
Melt half the butter in a pot and sauté the meat and the minced onion in it, check seasoning, and let cool. Wet the bread crumbs thoroughly in the milk, and stir them into the sautéed meat and onions, together with the eggs.
Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C).
Fill the onion halves with the filling, dot them with the remaining butter, and bake them just until they brown; they're equally good hot or cold.
- Substitute sausage or cotechino for the meat, or add minced rabbit or chicken livers, seasoned with minced sage, marjoram, basil and parsley.
- Replace some or all of the bread crumbs with grated Parmigiano or another grating cheese that isn't too sharp.
- Use béchamel sauce rather than eggs to tie the filling together, or use shredded stale bread rather than breadcrumbs. You can also add a few drops of grappa as a flavoring.
- Finally, if it's Lent or you don't have any meat handy, you can use butternut squash instead, peeled, and seasoned with a couple of crumbled amaretti, some raisings, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
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