Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tasty summer dishes sizzle with sweet Vidalia onions

(ARA) - Maybe it was helping your grandma with her favorite summer recipe or shopping with your mom at the market when the first shipment of the season arrived. No matter the memory, Vidalia onions are as versatile and delicious today as they were back then.

Vidalia onions are the original sweet onion. They are only grown in a small region in southeast Georgia and are only available in the spring and summer. Forget about the strong flavor of red and white onions that often leave odors in the kitchen for days. The sweet, mild taste of Vidalia onions makes them a great addition to any summer recipe.

"Vidalias have always been one of my favorite additions to warm-weather recipes," says "Top Chef" season five contestant Spike Mendelsohn. "Then, when my sister married a Vidalia native, I got to go down for their engagement party and see first-hand how much care the farmers put into their crop."

"When my family and I were thinking of what type of restaurant to open, we kept coming back to our favorite meals. Burgers, shakes, fries and Vidalia onion rings! What's better?" says Mendelsohn, who is executive chef and owner of Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C. He shares a favorite family Vidalia recipe from his brother-in-law:

Cliff's Homegrown Vidalia Onion Petals

Ingredients for the onion petals:
4 Vidalia onions, cut into quarters
4 cups batter (recipe follows)
Canola oil for deep-frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for the onion petal batter:
(This can be made one day in advance.)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch black pepper
Pinch ground cayenne
1 cup beer
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten

To prepare the onion petal batter, sift 2 cups flour, salt, paprika, brown sugar, Old Bay seasoning, cumin, black pepper and cayenne into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the beer, buttermilk and egg. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients, and whisk to prevent lumps. Refrigerate until needed. Line a metal tray with paper towels.

Heat about 3 inches oil in a large skillet until it reaches 350 F on a candy thermometer. To prepare the onion petals, toss the onions in a bowl with 1 cup flour, coating them well, and shake off the excess. Pour the batter into another bowl, and dip in the petals to coat well. Slowly add the petals one by one into the oil, making sure not to overcrowd the skillet. Cook until golden brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the petals, and drain them on the paper towels. Season the petals with salt and pepper while still hot. Serve immediately.

"I suggest serving these with a homemade basic mayonnaise or a horseradish mayonnaise for a bit of zip," says Mendelsohn. "These onions are also great in soups, salads, sandwiches, salsas, sauces -- the list goes on and on. Just be sure not to miss them as the growing season is short."

Share your own pleasant memory of cooking with Vidalia onions and your favorite family recipe with the famous sweet treat and you could win some cash. Enter the Vidalia Onion Committee's "Sweet Times with Vidalias Recipe Contest" from May 1 to Aug. 14. To enter, visit www.VidaliaOnion.org or join the fan page on www.facebook.com. Entries must be submitted online along with a memory or short story about cooking with Vidalia onions.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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