Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Small onions roasted whole in butter join morel mushrooms in garnishing this veal dish.

Kula sweet onions
star in winning recipes

KAANAPALI, Maui >> If you can imagine onions in ice cream, or onions in cheesecake -- better yet if you're willing to concede that both could be delicious -- you're on your way to a full appreciation of the Maui Onion Festival's annual recipe contest.

The cook-athon, held Saturday at the Whaler's Village shopping center -- challenged professionals and amateurs to make creative use of Maui's No. 1 produce item, the Kula sweet onion.

Stuffed onions are a perpetual favorite, but this year's contestants also layered their onions over pizza, rolled them into tortilla wraps, crusted them around fish fillets and stuffed them into chunks of chicken and veal.

Then there were the brave dessert entries. A luscious lilikoi cheesecake contained dried onions in the crust and caramelized onions on top, yet the dessert was lacking in onion flavor, which is probably what kept it out of the winners' circle. But an onion gelato -- mellowed with bananas -- did take third prize in the professional division. It was surprisingly tasty and mild and probably would have scored even higher if the samples hadn't melted in the hot afternoon sun.

First place among professionals went to Mark Franco, executive sous chef at Kaanapali Beach Hotel, for Maui Onion-Stuffed Veal Medallions. Amateur winner was Denise Espinosa of Lahaina for her Stuffed Maui Onion.

Entries were judged on taste, presentation, cooking technique and use of Maui onions. The other winners:

Professional Division: Maui Onion Cordon Bleu, by Bryan Ashlock, Sheraton Maui Resort Kaanapali Beach, second place; Maui Onion Gelato by Jaime M. Ramirez, Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club, third.

Amateur Division: Maui Onion Tropical Salsa by Marylyn Holland, second place; Wild Rice & Nuts with Maui Onions by Jock Poyen, third place.

Both top recipes follow. At first, Franco's veal dish seemed too complicated for home cooking, but although the dish has many components, the technique isn't that difficult. Only the sauce, with its veal stock and full bottle of madeira, goes beyond the basics, and that's mostly because of the ingredients and the time it would take to cook.

You could make the dish more practical by sticking to the veal centerpiece (or to simplify, use beef tenderloin) and making your own sauce out of reserved marinade. Or, skip the meat and make just the onion confit to serve with the roasted dish of your choice.

But for all the over-achievers out there, go for it: The full recipe follows (you'll need 4 pounds of onions plus 8 baby onions). The less ambitious can try Espinosa's stuffed onion winner.


Maui Onion-Stuffed Veal Medallions

3 pounds veal tenderloin, cut into medallions about 1-1/2 inches thick

>> Stuffing:
2 pounds Maui onions
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick)

>> Marinade
2 pounds Maui onions, julienned
2 pounds leeks, julienned
10 cloves garlic cloves,
sliced thin
6 fresh sprigs thyme
16 ounces extra-virgin olive oil

Combine marinade ingredients and pour over veal. Refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.

To make stuffing: Caramelize the onions in sugar, wine and butter. Cool completely.

Place in food processor and purée a few seconds. Mixture should be very coarse.

Take medallions out of marinade, scraping onions and leeks off of the veal pieces. Make a small incision in the side of each medallion using a sharp boning knife, continue to make a pocket inside the medallion, without cutting through the sides. Fill each medallion with the onion purée.

Braise or grill to medium doneness. Serve with Maui Onion Madeira Sauce and Kula Baby Onion Confit (recipes follow). Serves 8.

Maui Onion Madeira Sauce

4 pounds Maui onions
2 gallons veal stock
1 bottle madeira
10 garlic cloves
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 ounce dry morel mushrooms, rehydrated
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick)
Salt and white pepper, to taste

In a medium stock pot, caramelize the onions, then add the stock. Reduce by half; strain.

In a medium saucepan, reduce madeira, garlic and thyme to a syrup-like consistency, the point right before it begins to burn.

Combine stock reduction with wine reduction; reduce by 1/2 again. Add cream. Continue to reduce over low heat.

When sauce has reached desired consistency, whisk in butter. Strain.

Return sauce to pan over low heat. Add morels. Simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


Kula Baby Onion Confit

8 baby onions
3/4 pound unsalted butter
(3 sticks)
3-1/2 cups white wine
3/4 cup sugar

Stand onions in a saucepan. Combine remaining ingredients and pour around onions. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Keep hot until serving.

Stuffed Maui Onion

2 large Maui onions
13 large tiger prawns, sautéed in butter, with pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/4 cup cooked crab meat
6 4-ounce packages shredded jalapeño jack cheese
12 Spanish stuffed green olives
Lime-flavored tortilla chips
1/4 cup chopped coarsely macadamia nuts
2 large avocados, sliced
2 cups prepared red enchilada sauce
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

Remove first thick layer of skin from onions. Cut off tops and root buttons. Scoop out centers with a melon baller, leaving an outside layer about 1/4-inch thick. Set aside.

Chop 3 prawns and mix with chicken, crab, cheese, olives and tortilla chips. Set aside 2 tablespoons of nuts for garnish; add remaining nuts to stuffing. Stuff onions generously. Place on baking dish and bake 35 to 40 minutes until brown and cheese is bubbly.

Meanwhile, heat enchilada sauce. Arrange avocado slices and remaining prawns on 2 plates in a circular fashion. Pour some sauce in center of each plate.

Place onions over the enchilada sauce. Drizzle more sauce over onions and sprinkle with nuts.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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