Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lenten potato chips and dip

Lent is here which usually means my oldest sister is suffering having given up potato chips, wine, and chocolate. Easter morning she breaks out a bag (or two) of chips, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, and chocolate candies: my favorite breakfast of the year!

Even when I was a practicing Catholic I never understood how an individual's purposeful suffering made the world a better place. There are enough people living in misery, without food or water, without shelter. How does my suffering help them feel better? Instead, I preferred a Lent filled with good deeds and celebration. But then, I've never been very good at delayed gratification and have always sought the easiest road. That is probably why I never made a very good Catholic, except on Easter morning.

This week my sister is in Paris with our niece. Visiting Paris and forgoing wine just seemed sinful, so rather than wine my sister gave up sweets for Lent. A healthy substitution, in my opinion.

Wine is to France what potato chips are to the Midwest. Happily, wine and chips pair beautifully during Lent, on Easter morning, and all through the year. I've been hearing raves about Chef Amy Thielen's Fried Onion Dip. (Thielen is a Minnesotan who hosts Food Network's Heartland Table, a show that spotlights Midwestern food and diversity.) With a nod toward those abstaining from chips this month, I found the recipe and made a batch. Fried Onion Dip will definitely make an appearance on Easter's breakfast table this year.

Note: watch the onions carefully. I wandered away from the pan during my first go-round with this recipe and the onions burned. I was out of white onions, so began the recipe again with a red. Still pretty good, but I'll stick with the sweet white next time.

Fried Onion Dip*
Makes 2 cups
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size sweet onion, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Dash ground red pepper
Finely chopped fresh chives for garnish

Clarify butter: melt in small heavy saucepan over medium heat until foamy (2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Strain mixture into heavy skillet, leaving solids in bottom of saucepan.

Cook onion, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in clarified butter over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, 10 minutes or until onion edges are dark and slices are crisp in spots. Stir in garlic and honey; cook 1 minute. Add wine. Bring to simmer and cook 3 minutes until liquid thickens. Remove from heat; cool. Remove onions from skillet; chop fine and set aside. Reserve pan juices.

Whisk together sour cream and cream cheese; add onions and pan juices. Stir in 1 tablespoon chives, red pepper, and salt to taste; cover and chill for an hour before serving. Garnish with additional finely chopped chives.

*From Amy Thielsen's "The New Midwestern Table."

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