Orange-Flavored Onion Confit
Makes 8 half-pint preserving jars
This is a basic confit of onion which can be flavored with a
variety of seasonings and used as a condiment in many dishes.
This particular orange-flavored onion confit recipe is my
adaptation of a recipe that I learned from Gordon Drysdale, the chef at San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Cafe for a similar jam. He uses blood oranges and only in a
small quantities, so the orange flavor of his jam is very mild and reddish in color. I
found that Valencia oranges work just as well and that using much more juice and zest than
he uses brings out a stronger orange flavor and orange color that can stand up in any
Because this is a time-consuming recipe to cook, you should think about making it in
large quantities and putting it up in vacuum-sealed preserving jars.
It makes a great house present and it's wonderful to have in your "larder" to
use on sandwiches when you have any kind of leftover grilled chicken, meat or fish.
Instead of orange flavor, you might also try making this onion confit using cassis, red
wine vinegar, sugar and thyme. This version is great as a pizza topping combined with
Gorgonzola and walnuts and on any kind pasta dish (without tomato sauce). The preparation
method is exactly the same. Vary the proportions of cassis, red wine vinegar and sugar to
15 medium size yellow onions
6 small - medium Valencia oranges, zested and juiced
¾ cup sugar
Dash of sea salt
5 TBS. olive oil (have more on hand to add if necessary)
- In a very large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add all of the sliced onions. Stir
until onions start to color. (Add more olive oil if the onions seem
to be steaming rather than browning.) This step will take about 40-60 minutes.
- When the onions have sweat out most of their water and started to color a little, add
the sugar and continue to stir constantly over medium heat until
onions develop a little more color. This step will take another 30-40 minutes.
- When onions have developed the color you want, add the orange juice and continue to cook
over moderately high heat until most of juice has evaporated (about 10-15 minutes).
- When the confit has reached the consistency you want, add orange zest and remove from
heat. Add salt to taste.
Use as a condiment spread on any type of sandwich. We make focaccia
to use as sandwich bread. Great combos on focaccia:
- Confit: Most people tend to think of confit mainly in the
context of "duck confit". But a confit is any type of food which is cooked for a
long time to help preserve it. Confits can be sweet as in fruit jams
("confitures") cooked with sugar; acid as in tomato confit cooked with vinegar;
and oily as in duck confit preserved with duck (or goose fat). "Confit" derives
from the French word "confire" which simply means "to preserve".
- Color: Using high heat in the beginning will help to drive
off all the water in the onions. For this quantity of onions, there will be an amazing
amount of water and it will take about 30-40 minutes of cooking at moderately high heat to
evaporate all the water. There is very little danger of scorching the onions while the
water evaporating. But as they start getting dry, you must stir constantly to prevent
scorching. Add more olive oil at this point if the onions seem to be too dry. Even one
small bit of scorched onion will give the entire batch a bitter flavor.
I prefer not to let onions darken as much as Gordon Drysdale's original recipe. If the
onions remain a light golden brown, the color from oranges will come through and give the
jam a nice orange glow.
- Sugar: Similar recipes that call for browning onions (i.e.
for French onion soup) add the sugar near the beginning of the cooking and rely on the
caramelization of the sugar to give the onions a golden brown flavor. In this recipe, the
sugar is added at about 2/3's way through the cooking to for flavor after the onions have
already begun to turn golden brown. The onions reach a golden brown color through
continuous stirring over a moderately high heat without sugar.
- Smoked Chicken: We use Hoffman
Gamebirds smoked chickens.
- Preserving: Handle this as you do any jam. It will keep
at least 9 months if sealed properly and stored in a cool, dry place: while it is still
hot, put into sterilized jars and secure the rubber seal top. Process in a hot water bath
for 5 minutes.
- Focaccia: If you need a good focaccia recipe, drop me an
e-mail and I'll send you the one I like to use. It is based on a recipe by Chef Robert
Hellstrom of Kuleto's Restaurant in San Francisco but I have made some modifications. It
only takes a few hours from beginning to end. So if you start by 3:00 PM on Sunday
afternoon, you can have fresh focaccia for a light Sunday Supper sandwich by 7:00 PM. This
focaccia freezes well (if there's any leftover!!).