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Stuffed Onions with Fonduta, Amaretti and Sage

Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen, authors of the cookbook Sorella, first tried this unique and traditional dish at the original Slow Food-designated restaurant in Alba during the annual truffle festival. The onion arrived covered with white truffles and sitting atop a Barolo leaf. That was a really hard day. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 medium yellow onions

For the filling:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 oz. (90 g) pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) ground veal
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz./90 g) golden raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • Grated zest and juice of 1/2 orange
  • Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) dark rum
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) fine dried bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the fonduta:

  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) milk
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 oz. (90 g) fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) amaretti cookies, broken up into pieces
  • 1 large white truffle (optional)
  • 6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, fried

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325°F (165°C).

Cut off the top one-fourth of the blossom end of each onion. Then cut a thin slice off the root end so the onions will stand upright. Place the onions on a roasting rack set over a baking sheet and replace the tops. Roast until soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Give the onions a squeeze with tongs. If the inside layers squeeze out a bit and are soft, the onions are done. Let cool slightly on the rack. Set the tops aside again and gently squeeze out a few of the inside layers of the onions onto a cutting board. Be careful to keep 2 or 3 thick outer layers of each onion intact to ensure a sturdy shell for stuffing. Return the shells to the rack on the baking sheet, standing them upright. Have the tops nearby. Chop the inner portions of the onions and transfer to a bowl for the filling. Set aside.

To make the filling, drizzle the olive oil into a pot and set over medium heat. Add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, to render the fat. When the pancetta is translucent, add the veal. Brown off the veal, breaking it up with a spoon. Add the reserved chopped onions, raisins, sage, parsley, thyme, orange and lemon zest and juice, allspice, cloves and nutmeg and stir to mix well.

Stir in the rum, scraping up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream and reduce again until the mixture is quite thick.  Make sure it does not scorch. Remove from the heat and fold in the bread crumbs. Let cool to room temperature. Taste and season liberally with salt. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. The stuffing should have the consistency of a slightly wet meatball.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

Using a teaspoon or soupspoon, stuff each onion with the filling until the cavity is full. Transfer them to the rack on the baking sheet. Replace the tops and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake until the stuffed onions are hot throughout, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the fonduta: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until well blended. Add the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the nutmeg and cheeses and continue whisking until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and remove from the heat. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a plastic squeeze bottle.

To assemble: When the onions are hot, remove from the oven and take off the tops. Immediately squeeze about 2 Tbs. of the fonduta into the filling in each onion using the tip of the squeeze bottle. Sprinkle a pinch or two of the amaretti crumbs on top. Use the remaining amaretti crumbs to make a bed on a platter or on individual plates. Nestle the onions upright in the crumbs. If you have a truffle, use a grater to shower the onions with thin slices of truffle in front of your guests. Top with the fried sage leaves and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Sorella, by Emma Hearst & Sarah Krathen (Olive Press, 2013).