Every good recipe starts with reaching for an onion but for some reason they never get much respect. Occasionally the onion gets center stage when it is sliced, battered and deep fried but mostly the poor allium is taken for granted. Seed catalogs do not write poetic descriptions of their attributes. Chefs do not have seasonal onion-centered menus. (Actually they do in Vidalia and Walla Walla growing regions but that is another story.) The lowly onion is generally just considered a supporting player.
Before you dismiss them to plebe status, keep in mind that when you enter a house and smell good things cooking, it is probably the aroma of sautéing onions. They are the backbone of every sauce, soup or stew. They give sweetness, zing and body to salsas and relishes. Put simply, good cuisine is entirely dependent upon them.
I, for one, have great respect for the onion, having grown them on my farm for decades. They are actually quite finicky, demanding top-quality soil and nutrients in a weed-free environment. When you give them everything they need, they reward you with a sizable flavor bomb that you can store all winter. When I’m at a loss for ideas to top a chop for dinner, sautéed onions are simple and so, so good. The trick to getting that perfect caramelization is ‘slow and low’. Slice them up and let them brown in the pan on low heat for at least half an hour. When they are getting close to being done, I add a dash of balsamic vinegar and some Pecan Wood Smoked Maple Syrup. The smokiness of the syrup plays beautifully with the grilled pork chop. The vinegar and syrup are merely there to enhance the sweetness and tang of the onions – supporting players to the star onion.
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions & Smoked Maple
- Vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, any color, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 – 2 Tbsp Runamok Smoked Maple Syrup
- 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- Salt and pepper
In a large pan, heat several tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat them in the oil. Sauté for a few minutes and then reduce the heat to low. Let the onions brown without disturbing them, only giving them a stir to prevent burning every ten minutes or so. Keep an eye on moisture and if the pan looks too dry, add extra oil. To properly brown onions can take up to half an hour so be patient and wait until they have developed that deep brown color. They will have reduced in size considerably.
When they are just about done, add the balsamic vinegar and smoked maple syrup to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
For the pork chops, preheat a grill or broiler. Generously salt and pepper the chops. Coat with a little vegetable oil and place on the grill or under the broiler. Broil or grill for approximately five minutes a side on high heat (more for thick chops, less for thin). When fully cooked through, remove from the heat, place on a plate and top with the caramelized onions and a sprinkling of parsley.