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Goat Cheese and Onions Part 2

I recently read an article (in Epicurous, I think) about the oft-neglected merits of something certain foodies consider super uncool: boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Unexciting, perhaps, but I’m a firm believer that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are indispensable. See this recipe for chicken and veggie quesadillas by Ree Drummond that has sustained the two of us for at least a week’s worth of dinners… a sprinkle of taco seasoning lends the diced chicken a bit of kick, and you can prepare it ahead, along with the sautéed onions and bell peppers, and throw together a quesadilla whenever you’re feeling hungry. Then, mix the extra diced chicken with romaine lettuce, shredded Mexican cheese, tomato slices, and this rich, basil and scallion-loaded green goddess dressing, and you’ve got lunch. Or (I digress) the dressing is so rich you may just want a plateful of lettuce and tomato, like so:

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But anyway. Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Yes.

That being said, I’m also aboard the bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh trend. Which brings me to goat cheese and onions. Here’s how I adapted Ina Garten’s Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato a few weeks ago:

  • Chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. In my experience, thigh meat tends to be fattier and more succulent than breast meat, and I feel I can justify the treat because thighs are smaller than breasts.
  • Her recipe calls for herbed goat cheese – I had plain in my fridge, from my aforementioned experiment with goat cheese caramelized onion bruschetta, so I added a fresh basil leaf under the skin instead. (If you have an herb garden, you could always mash in your own fresh herbs and an improvise your own herbed goat cheese. Right now my chives are out of control, so maybe I should have done that. Aw shucks, I suppose I’ll have to buy another log of goat cheese and start all over again… 🙂 )
  • I also did not have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, so I put a roasted red pepper (that came in a jar) under the skin. (Another reason to buy these jarred, roasted red peppers is that they layer sweetly on your standard, homemade grilled cheese sandwich and add nice, vinegary notes to salads. If you happen to have fresh bell peppers lying around, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and a little fresh garlic (optional), you can make your own. See another, goat-cheese centric Ina Garten recipe (this one I haven’t made) for more specific instructions on how to pickle peppers.

Onions, you say?

I’ve made this Ina Garten recipe for herb roasted onions a few times, say, if I’m cooking meat and I have no vegetables or salad ingredients on hand to go with. It’s something of a revelation to me that onions are a vegetable that can be roasted like anything else, and stand on their own. Quarter and separate a few onions – mix them with olive oil, mustard, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper – roast them on a sheet pan, and voila: a cheap and surprisingly delicious side dish. (This time I made the recipe with yellow onions only, because that’s what I had – but I think adding a red onion to the mix is really worth it. Adds extra sweetness).

I rounded out the roasted chicken and roasted onions with some roasted carrots – really simple — olive oil, salt and pepper, and in my case, copious amounts of fresh dill.

Here’s how dinner ended up (I forgot to mention that crisp (cheap) white wine is always an important factor in the goat cheese and onion equation, but perhaps that just goes unsaid…)

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To goat cheese, to onions, to alfresco dining, to life, to life, l’chaim….

Goat Cheese and Onions Part 1

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My favorite thing to cook, hands down, is caramelized onions. There’s the therapeutic knife work: slicing this surprisingly juicy root vegetable until tears trickle down your cheeks. Then the melting of butter and olive oil… I don’t know about you, but I can taste decadence at the sight of crackling butter… Then, very slowly, the alchemy of cooking is at work – with a little heat, a crackling of pepper and salt, a sprinkling of sugar, and that key ingredient, time — a heap of raw, half moon shapes becomes a puddle of onion candy.

I would just as spoon caramelized onions out of a bowl, but on a recent summer evening I decided to add toasted bread, a sprinkling of fresh thyme, and a smear of goat cheese to the mix. It was a little too delicious. A baguette of goat cheese caramelized onion bruschetta has its merits as a dinner for two – it’s both inexpensive and easy – but you’ll curse yourself if you consume half a loaf of bread as part of your “light” summer dinner, as did I. Or maybe you won’t! Maybe this is the perfect dinner for you. In that case, you need:

Materials

Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Large bowl
Large skillet or pot
Spatula or wooden spoon
Serrated knife
One sheet pan, preferably rimmed
Small glass bowl (preferred, not required)
Silicone brush (preferred, not required)
Tongs
Serving platter or large plate
Butter knife
Microwave

Ingredients

Three large onions
Half a stick of butter
A glug of olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Granulated sugar
Baguette
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme

Instructions

  • Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and bring it to room temp.
  • Peel your three large onions and cut them in half. Then cut each of the six halves into medium slices. Separate the slices into a large bowl.
  • Get your skillet or pot out, and turn the heat on low. Melt your butter and olive oil in the skillet or pot. I melted the whole half stick, but it’s probably better to slice the butter into tablespoons before putting it in the pan so it melts more evenly and quickly.
  • Pile the onions in, and use a spatula or a wooden spoon to coat the onion slices evenly in the fat. Sprinkle the onions with salt, pepper, and a couple pinches of granulated sugar.
  • Let the onions sit for a good long 45 minutes to an hour, until they are a rich golden brown. Turn them every once a while and keep your eye on the skillet. Meanwhile,
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Take your serrated knife and slice the baguette as thinly or thickly as you want. I made thick slices, but I think when I make this again, I’ll slice the bread thinner, so it toasts into crackers. (These are cleaner to eat and make for a lighter appetizer, if you don’t eat a million of them. If you make your slices thinner, you’ll probably need two sheet pans).
  • Spread your baguette slices onto a dry sheet pan. Fill a small container with olive oil. Brush each slice, on each side, with a generous coating of olive oil. (You can also pour the olive oil directly on the pan and rub the slices around in it). Sprinkle the entire pan of bread with a few pinches of kosher salt.
  • Toast the bread slices in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown, say 5-10 minutes. Flip the slices with tongs and toast the other side for just a bit.
  • Transfer the toasts to a serving platter or plate.
  • Put your room temp goat cheese in the microwave for 10 seconds (if necessary. If the oven has made your kitchen warm, you might not need to microwave it).
  • Spread the goat cheese generously on each slice and sprinkle with fresh thyme. (To remove thyme leaves from their stems, point the stem upside down and pull the leaves up the stem between your fingers). If you want to mince the thyme, great, but a sprinkling of full leaves works fine, too.
  • Spoon the caramelized onions onto the warm goat cheese and enjoy 🙂
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