With a crisp bite and sharp flavor, onions of all varieties are a staple in dishes around the world. The Vidalia onion brings its own subtle sweetness to that familiar ingredient in any recipe. Named for the southern Georgia city in which they grow, Vidalia onions are one of the South’s most prized agricultural contributions to the culinary world. While today they can be found in markets across all 50 states, less than 100 years ago they were still fairly unknown. In the 1930s people in a small town about halfway between Macon and Savannah, Georgia, began growing onions in hopes of lifting themselves out of the Great Depression. Sweeter than the onions to which most were accustomed, they quickly grew in regional popularity. With the help of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, the onions began to be distributed more widely, eventually gaining national recognition in the mid-1970s.
While other sweet onions have cropped up — pun intended — since the Vidalia’s development, only true Vidalia onions are grown in this southeastern region of Georgia. Now that they are easily accessible, don’t hesitate to work them into meals and recipes. Enjoy this vegetable bulb fresh to experience the dynamic flavor profile and natural texture. Or draw the sugars to the surface by caramelizing or roasting. Traditional Southern recipes like onion pie come to life with these regionally grown and developed ingredients.
Now, just because Vidalias are sweet doesn’t mean they won’t make you cry. They are still onions after all. As with any onion, slicing releases a chemical irritant called propanethial-S-oxide that causes our eyes to burn and release tears. To mitigate or cut down the tearful effects caused by cutting onions, work in a well-ventilated space, perhaps with a fan that will blow the chemical away from your eyes. Use a sharp knife as a blunt one will damage the cells of the onion more, causing more of the irritant to be released. Finally, it’s believed that chilling the onion in the refrigerator before slicing will cut down on the effects of the irritant.
This recipe calls for a “deglazing liquid” in the ingredients. This liquid can be broth, white wine, balsamic vinegar, or any other liquid. The deglazing liquid will help lift the caramelized bits that will stick to the bottom of the pan.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Vidalia onions
¼ cup deglazing liquid
½ teaspoon salt
Halve the onions, peel away the skins, and discard. Cut the tip from the onion, leaving the root intact. Discard the tip. Thinly slice the onion perpendicular to the root, creating strips of onions.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a cast-iron or stainless steel pan. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and salt to the pan. Stir to coat the onions in the oil, allowing them to cook for 10 minutes. Continue stirring every 5 to 10 minutes for the next 40 minutes. At the end of the process, pour the deglazing liquid of choice into the pan. Use a spatula to scrape any bits caked to the bottom of the pan. Remove the onions from the heat.
Once the onions have been caramelized, they can be stored refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week, though they likely will be eaten long before then.
Caramelized Onion Dip
Tangy and sweet with a little kick, this dip can be used for fresh vegetables, chips, or with warm fresh pita.
½ cup caramelized onions
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon flaky salt
Place the caramelized onions into a blender or food processor and pulse 3 to 5 times. The mixture should be diced, not smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
This recipe can be adjusted to include a number of alternate flavors. Replace the smoked paprika with Italian seasoning, a drizzle of honey, and sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper or any other flavors that come to mind.