OK, so I know I’m supposed to be relishing the last few weeks of summer, eating heaps of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, but what can I say? Sometimes a girl just wants to braise. I got back into my braising groove last week with a decidedly seasonal recipe: Melissa Clark’s Summer Beans with Herbs, Tomatoes and Carmelized Onions. I loved her story about growing up on beans that were “barely blanched until green as grass, retaining a fresh, chlorophyll taste and a firm al dente texture that seemed to make sense with their spaghetti-thin girth.”
My early days of green-bean eating were the result of my Grandpa Claude and Grandma Bea’s gardening and canning efforts. During the summer, boxes of canned green beans arrived at our house and lasted nearly until the next year’s harvest. Dinner preparations were not usually complete without me or one of my brothers being sent down to the basement to retrieve a jar. I remember usually eating these slightly mushy beans without much fuss, but I never thought much of them, except when I wondered why the ones my grandma served always tasted better. (I eventually learned the bacon grease she cooked them in probably had something to do with it.)
At some point, my parents shifted to the “barely blanched” camp and cooked fresh string beans this way, usually topped with a little butter and dill. I still like, and use, this preparation, but it can be a little more raw-flavored than I prefer at times. Clark’s recipe helped me find some lovely middle ground. Braising the fresh beans with onions and tomatoes in white wine, they become infused with tons of flavor but retain plenty of firmness. I can’t wait to make them again.
But perhaps I should explain what all this talk of green beans has to do with onions, apples and raisins. In short, it put me back in a braising mood, and so when I found myself with an excess of apple slices and raisins (leftover from a project I’m working on for The Kitchn), braising was the first thing that came to mind. I was putting together a typical Sunday evening spread of baguette slices, cheese and what-not, and I was looking for some sort of spread or bread topping.
On a whim, I sliced up a leftover half of yellow onion, and threw it in the Dutch oven with the apples and some oil. Then I thought, why not add the raisins and some herbs and braise them in sherry? So that’s just what I did. And the result was quite tasty, if slightly unseasonal.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1/2 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
- 1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
- olive oil
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1 cup sherry
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (fresh thyme would be even better, if you have it)
- 1 bayleaf
- salt and pepper
Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, apples and a pinch of salt, and cook until they soften and brown just slightly. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed.
Serve with a sliced baguette and a nice cheese. Goat cheese or grated Pecorino are both great.