I’ve long been an onion fan, and I credit this to my grandmother. She prepared the most delicious Mexican food with only the freshest ingredients! I got hooked on onions as a child, but as I got older, I must admit my love for onions started to fade as I found it harder and harder to find a sweet onion. Once I find a good onion, I will add it to everything – from guacamole to my quesadillas, sandwiches, and yes, I’ve been known to eat them raw. Well, little did I know Vidalia onions are the sweetest onions around, and they’re now in season.
Top Chef finalist and restauranteur, chef Kevin Gillespie joined me for an interview to chat about his love for Vidalia onions, the secret to picking the perfect onion, whether or not it’s possible to slice an onion without tearing up and to prepare a delicious recipe with us! You will absolutely ADORE the slow roasted Vidalia onion soup recipe he made, which you can serve hot or cold. He shared all the details in the YouTube video below.
Please be sure to watch the video to learn how to make this tasty dish and to see chef Kevin Gillespie demonstrate how to pick the perfect Vidalia onion. You definitely don’t want to miss it. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy reading articles as well, so I made sure and transcribed it for you! I hope you enjoy the recipe, and you learn more about this amazing vegetable, which you can use in so many different dishes.
Watch journalist and blogger, Candace Rose Anderson of the website Candie Anderson interview renowned chef, “Top Chef” finalist and restaurant owner, Kevin Gillespie! He shared the secret to making Slow Roasted Vidalia onion soup, how to pick the perfect onion, and why you’ll never cry when slicing an onion again.
Chef Kevin Gillespie Shares Slow Roasted Vidalia Onion Soup Recipe
Candie Anderson: I hear you have delicious recipes that you’re preparing for us today. I’d love to hear about them!
Kevin Gillespie: “Absolutely. Today, marks the very beginning of the Vidalia onion season for 2018. To roll it out we’re doing a lot of fun stuff. One of them is coming up with some cool recipes. The one I’m going to show you today is actually a slow roasted Vidalia onion soup that I think really emphasizes the natural sweetness that the onions bring. It starts with the onions in their skin or in their jacket.
We actually take them and wrap them in aluminum foil and make sort of a package if you will. We do that so that we can collect all of the natural juice from the onion as it roasts because that juice or that broth really makes the backbone of that soup that we’re making. Wrap them up tight so that none of that steam can escape.
We pop them in our oven at 350 degrees for maybe an hour or an hour and a half. When they come out they should be super tender – all the way to soft to the touch. Once they’ve cooled enough so that you can handle them, we’ll take the onions, we’ll pop the root end off and we’ll squeeze them directly into the blender carafe, and we will actually make our soup directly in the blender with these roasted onions.
We don’t want to get rid of all of the juice that is collected in the package, we want to pour that into the blender as well. We’ll add into the blender a little bit of mascarpone cheese. I think the milky sweetness of the mascarpone cheese really complements the onions flavor, but it also adds to the creamy texture of the soup when it’s all said and done.
We’ll add one clove of garlic (a small one) just enough for a tiny bit of heat and spice; a big pinch of kosher salt, and then a few drops of lemon juice, just to balance that sweetness of the onion. It’s as simple as blending it up and adjusting its consistency. We’ll blend it until it’s really, really smooth. Depending on how much liquid was left behind from the onion. It can be a very small amount, all the way up to quite a bit. We may have to adjust it with a little bit of broth or stock. You can use chicken stock, you can use vegetable stock – whatever you prefer in this case. We just want to get to the consistency of a nice spoonable, creamy soup. That’s what I have right here in my saucepan.
You can hold it warm for a few hours. You can also chill this down and serve it as a cold soup, it’s wonderful that way as well. We’ll just dish it out into our bowl. My garnish for it is something as simple as a little pinch of chives here and a tiny crack of black pepper. What that does is it adds a little freshness and a little spice to something that otherwise just tastes of the very beginning of spring.”
How Vidalia onions differ from other onions
Candie Anderson: What makes Vidalia onions different from other onions?
Kevin Gillespie: “Vidalia onions are truly unique. They fall into the category of what we would call sweet onions, but Vidalias are by far the sweetest in that category. That comes from a very unique makeup here in South Georgia of a climate that is perfect for growing onions – an appropriate amount of water, and a soil content that is filled with the right kind of minerals that is making these onions taste the way that they do. It’s very special and that’s what makes it only possible to grow these in a very limited range.”
Different Ways You Can Use A Vidalia Onion
Candie Anderson: Cinco de Mayo and summer celebrations are coming up. Here in California we eat a lot of pico de gallo. Would you recommend Vidalia onions for salsas?
Kevin Gillespie: “Oh man, it would be phenomenal in salsas and the reason for that is this is an onion that you truly can eat raw without having any sort of objection to it. I ate one in the field raw yesterday. They have a wonderful crunch to them, they have a beautiful sweetness. They’re very low in sulfur, and for most folks what that equates to is a spicy onion when they have too much sulfur. That’s what makes us cry when we try to cut them. These are very low in that, so they’re beautiful raw. They’re also wonderful cooked. They make a great onion ring. They’re great on the grill. I love to grill them and get a really nice char on the outside, but keep the inside still nice and crunchy.
I love serving them alongside braised meats because they really complement that slow roasting texture. In my opinion, you can do anything with a Vidalia onion. Anything you can do with a normal onion, you can do with a Vidalia and have a better end result.”
Chef Kevin Gillespie Talks Vidalia Onion Season And Availability
Candie Anderson: How long are Vidalia onions in season and available in stores?
Kevin Gillespie: “Vidalia onions definitely have a season, and that season starts today (April 20) but it goes until the end of August or the beginning of September, so you have a little while to get to them. But they’re not available forever and people take that for granted. They think onions will always be in the store. There will be some onion, but Vidalia onions are not available year round, so get them while you can.”
How To Pick The Perfect Vidalia Onion
Candie Anderson: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Kevin Gillespie: “Absolutely. A lot of folks ask us how to choose the right onion, and I think that’s a great thing to ask – so let me show you real quick. When you look at these onions (please see video above) – a Vidalia onion should be nice and sort of squatty (a flat top and a flat bottom) like a ball that has been squished down. That golden skin on the outside is quintessential, that’s all Georgia sunshine hitting the outsides of these. You can do a test here where you push on the top of it. This is the part where the green stalk would be. You’re testing to see how firm it is. A really fresh, ripe onion is going to have a really firm, ripe texture right here. If it’s too soft or maybe if you leave an indention when you push on it, that could mean an old onion or one that’s been stored improperly, and so that’s the one that you’re going to want to pass over.
When you get them to your house, store them in a cool, dry place and store them with the bottom root-side down. That will keep them from getting bruised and last a little bit longer for you.”
Whether Or Not It’s Possible To Slice An Onion Without Tearing Up
Candie Anderson: I just have to ask, what’s the best way to slice an onion without tearing up?
Kevin Gillespie: “There is no magic way to slice an onion without tearing up IF that onion has a lot of sulfur in it. The answer to your question is buy a Vidalia onion and you’ll never have to deal with that problem.”
How To Find More Information On Vidalia Onions
Candie Anderson: Where can we go for more information?
Kevin Gillespie: “If you want to check out more recipes or if you want to learn more about the growers – this is an artisan product, they’ve been hand planting and hand harvesting these for over 80 years now – go check out VidaliaOnion.org. It’s a really great site for additional resources. If you want to follow on social media, I’m “ChefKevinGillespie” on all the major platforms. You can search for the hashtag #onlyvidalia, and you can see photos of us in the field, you can see different dishes that we’re making and you can put some faces to the folks that are growing this amazing product.”