I still remember my first day of culinary school like it was yesterday. I woke up at 5:30 am, ran around in a complete haze of exhaustion trying to get ready in 20 minutes, grabbed my chef’s uniform and left. I was so bleary eyed that I took Jeff’s keys by mistake. I drove to school, parked my car and realized I had forgotten my knives. Oy. I had a feeling I was in for a very long day.
I arrived at L’academie and hit the girls locker room. I put on my baggy uniform, threw my hair in a messy bun and nervously admitted to the other girls that I had forgotten my knives. They looked at me like I had three heads. It was a friendly group. I chugged two cups of bad coffee, grabbed my laptop (which we had been told at orientation could be used for notes) and went into the classroom. I quietly told the chef I had forgotten my knives. He gave me a bemused look and told me he’d find me some.
I sat down, relieved, opened my laptop and looked around. I was the only one with a laptop. Everyone else had notebooks. Chef stared at me, now with pure amusement, and said “you’re going to use that thing for notes?” Everyone stared. “No…” I said. “I’m bringing a notebook tomorrow.” I kept a straight face but on the inside I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
And so began my first day of culinary school. We learned how to properly caramelize onions and use them for French onion soup, which would be lunch for the day. While we were cooking, one of my classmates bumped into my pot of soup, knocking it to the floor. I stared at it, stunned. “Was that yours?” she asked with an almost accusatory look. Er… yes it was. She didn’t apologize, help me clean up or offer me any of her soup. When it was time to eat I sat quietly and ate my half cup of remaining soup, trying to remember why I had paid for this.
So that’s how my culinary journey began. Sometimes I’m amazed I went back on day two. But that first day wasn’t a complete loss. I learned how to caramelize onions.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered and sliced thin
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup water (plus more as needed)
- ½ cup port wine (I used Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Port)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 pounds pizza dough or 8 pieces naan bread (I used Whole Foods Pizza Dough)
- 24-32 ounces of burrata cheese (regular mozzarella may be subsituted)
- 1 green apple, sliced thin
- fresh or dried thyme
- Melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and salt. Sweat the onions, stirring, until they begin to caramelize. Turn up the heat to medium-low. Once a brown glaze has formed on the bottom of the skillet, pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of water into the pan to deglaze and use a spatula to scrape up the brown bits and stir them into the onions. Repeat this glazing and deglazing process until the onions have been thoroughly caramelized and taste both sweet and bitter, approximately 25-35 minutes.
- Add the port wine and balsamic vinegar and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until all of the liquid has reduced and is coating the onions. Taste and add a bit more salt if desired.
- If using the pizza dough: divide it into 8 even portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin long oval. Heat a skillet on medium and and a small amount of olive oil to coat the pan. Gently stretch the dough out further and place it on the skillet. Cook for several minutes on each side until slightly golden and cooked through. Poke any air pockets that may develop with a knife so they deflate.
- Heat up the grill to the highest setting and allow it to get hot for several minutes Place the flatbreads or naan on the grill and allow them to char for about 30 seconds. Remove from the grill and turn the heat down to medium.
- Spread approximately ¼ cup of port onion jam onto the charred side of each piece of bread, leaving some space around the ends. Top with pieces of burrata.
- Carefully place the flatbreads back on the grill and close the lid. Cook for 7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted through. Remove from the heat.
- Layer the sliced green apple on top of the flatbreads. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.
More Grill Recipes
Savory Simple – Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Chimichurri Sauce
Savory Simple – Cumin Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa
Savory Simple – Grilled Pears with Honey Roquefort Whipped Cream
The Beeroness – Grilled Romaine Salad with IPA Caesar Dressing
Baked Bree – Grilled Chipotle Chicken Tacos
Bakeaholic Mama – Lemon Goat Cheese Pound Cake with Grilled Honey Glazed Plums and Basil