Yotam Ottolenghi’s Miso Butter Onions

Onions meet butter meets miso -- with incredible results.
Onions meet butter meets miso — with incredible results.

Have you ever been tempted to devour a huge heap of onions for dinner?

Nope, me, neither.

Not until I discovered “Miso Butter Onions.”

Imagine onions saturated in butter and savory miso, until they become one, with a texture that is downright melty.

It’s a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook, “Ottolenghi Flavor” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

In this latest cookbook, the London chef and co-writer Tara Wigley put the spotlight on plant-based dishes.

Through more than 100 recipes, Ottolengthi teaches how to amplify the natural flavors of vegetables by adding acidity, fat, sweetness or heat; or by using specific techniques such as charring.

There are a lot of veg-focused cookbooks now, but few offer such creative yet accessible recipes as this one. You’ll find yourself salivating over dishes such as “Grilled Figs with Shaoxing Dressing,” “Hasselback Beets with Lime Leaf Butter, ” “Sticky Rice Balls in Tamarind Rasam Broth,” “Saffron Tagliatelle with Ricotta and Crispy Chipotle Shallots,” and “Tapioca Fritters with Orange Syrup and Star Anise.”

This onion dish is super easy, except for one fiddly part: It calls for small onions or shallots, about 5 1/4 ounces each. Now, I don’t know about your supermarket, but for whatever reason, all of the ones I typically shop at carry only ginormous onions, many the size of a baseball. On the other hand, there’s no way I’ve seen any shallots anywhere near 5 ounces.

So, what to do? What to do?

After combing around, I was able to get my hand on some small-ish sized onions, though, they were still not as small as this recipe required. Instead, they were about 6 1/2 ounces each and roughly 3 inches in diameter.

You want to fit the onion halves in the pan so that they lay flat in one layer.
You want to fit the onion halves in the pan so that they lay flat in one layer.
When they emerge from the hot oven, they are wonderfully charred and meltingly soft.
When they emerge from the hot oven, they are wonderfully charred and meltingly soft.

I’m guessing that size matters here a bit because you need to fit the onion halves in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, along with a load of liquid — water mixed with miso and melted butter. And that liquid needs to cook down in the time that it takes for the onions to become soft throughout but not break down into mush.

My onions fit, though, I had to go with six onions in the pan rather than the called-for eight. I think you could even use slightly larger onions, if you had to. Just try to find the smallest ones you can.

The amount of liquid will come up to the top of the pan. So take care when you carry it to the oven or lift it out. You may even want to put a baking sheet underneath the pan, just in case any sloshes out.

The oven does all the work, at very high heat, over nearly 90 minutes, cooking the onions through and through, and rendering all that liquid into an unctuous gravy.

These onions have all the sweetness of caramelized onions, plus a luxurious richness — there is nearly a stick of butter in there — along with a savory depth and just enough saltiness to balance everything out.

Ottolenghi recommends serving these supple onions with roast chicken or over grilled bread, mashed potatoes or rice.

I can attest that mounded atop plain white rice, with its buttery golden gravy soaking into the fluffy grains, these onions make for a surprisingly pleasing forkful unto their own.

So much so that while the recipe says it serves 6, I feel confident in changing that to 4. Because after one taste, it’s a good bet you won’t be able to stop.

Who knew onions could be so dreamy delicious?
Who knew onions could be so dreamy delicious?

Miso Butter Onions

(Serves 4 to 6)

6 to 8 small onions or 8 very large shallots (about 5 1/4 ounces each or 2 2/3 pounds total)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white or other miso paste

1 quart warm water

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Halve the onions or shallots lengthwise, discarding the papery skin, as well as the layer beneath if its’ tough or dry. Trim the tops and a little off the bottom (not too much — you want to ensure the onion halves stay held together at the base).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, miso, and warm water until fully incorporated.

Place the onion halves, cut-side down and spaced apart, in a 9-by-13-inch high-sided baking dish or pan and pour in the miso water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and baker for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and turn the onions over so they are cut-side up (take care to ensure they remain intact). Baste the onions very well, then return to the oven, uncovered, for another 45 to 50 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft, deeply browned on top, and the sauce has reduced to a gravy consistency.

Carefully transfer the onions to a platter, pouring the sauce over and around them, and serve at once.

Adapted from “Ottolenghi Flavor” by Yotam Ottolenghi

More Yotam Ottolenghi Recipes to Enjoy: Roasted Eggplant with Anchovies and Oregano

And: Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce

And: Vineyard Cake

And: Lamb Meatballs with Warm Yogurt and Swiss Chard

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  • Golly! This looks amazing. I’ve seen onions that size, but not often — my market is more into the baseball size ones, like yours. But it sure is worth finding them to make this — terrific looking dish. I’d want seconds. Maybe thirds. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I’m thinking of riffing on this to make my Thanksgiving “gravy”

  • Hi Judith: OMG, that sounds like an incredible idea! I can just imagine how good buttery miso onions would be spooned over roast turkey either as is or maybe pureed to a smoother sauce consistency. It would definitely add a luxurious note to the meat. You’ll have to let me know how it turns out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • This sounds so good. Between the butter and the miso, I imagine the depth and the richness of flavor would be outstanding!

  • Hi Laura: This dish is the bomb! Who knew onions could taste so luxurious? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Ok, an update on the “gravy” situation. After finishing the onions (to which I added toasted sliced ancho chiles), I removed the onions and chiles and presented on a platter. They were lovely and tender and didn’t require being served in their sauce. I added the miso sauce to the de-fatted turkey drippings with some stock, cornstarch slurry and a touch of soy. Very nice!

  • Hi Judith: Oh my, does that ever sound good! I love that idea for the gravy. My dad used to always add a splash of soy sauce to his turkey gravy, too. I can only imagine how the miso onion gravy took it to the next level. Yum! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Did you find it was too much liquid? I saw many people commenting that they would decrease the water by 25-30%.

  • Hi Ann: I didn’t find that it had too much liquid. I know at least a couple other folks who agreed with that assessment. But I also heard from at least one person who said they had way too much liquid leftover. I think it might have to do with how hot your oven runs. If you have the time, you could always leave the pan in the oven another 5 minutes or so to let the liquid reduce more. The sauce will thicken even a little more beyond that after you pull it out of the oven and it sits for a few minutes, just fyi. Hope that helps. Enjoy!

  • Ooooh, this was sooooo good.

    I thought it was too much liquid but let it cook and the liquid reduced and thickened to a very flavorful sauce.

    However, I found the cooking time to be off. Mine was done 10 or 15 minutes before the indicated time and it burns very quickly, so keep an eye on it.

  • Hi Moe: Glad you finally got to try it. Yes, these onions are incredible! Thanks for the tip on the cooking time. It’s been interesting to see the different cooking experiences that various people have when making this. It just goes to show that we all have different ovens that run at different temperatures — and not necessarily accurate ones according to our oven settings.

  • This recipe was delicious! Thank you for sharing such a simple tasty recipe. Served with brown rice, grilled pork and an Asian slaw.

  • Hi Drew: Your accompaniments sound fabulous. So glad you enjoyed this onion dish. It really satisfies on so many levels. Enjoy!

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