Note: This post contains a picture (the second in this post) showing feathered, whole poultry for sale at the market in Paris for the holidays. If you’re sensitive to seeing those things, you may want to skip or scroll down past it or wait for the next newsletter post. If you just want the recipe, you can get it here at the link below:
It’s almost Christmas here in Paris, and the foods that people traditionally eat are on display at the markets: Oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, lobster, and caviar—or so they say. No one’s ever served me caviar at Christmas, but looking at the calendar right now, I see there’s still time. I’m just sayin’…
People also spring for gibier (game) and poultry, and at the volailler you’ll find vendors presenting chapon (capon), oie (goose), dinde (turkey), and canette (duck), with all their fancy plumage on display.
Folks elsewhere might be a bit squeamish about things like that, but it’s part of life in France: Most of these birds don’t spend their lives in cages, but most of them do end up on someone’s dinner table. And people in the U.S. might be wondering why turkey is included in that list of “fancy” poultry, but when you buy a fermière (farm-raised) turkey in France, it’s moist and delicious…and justifiably, just as expensive as other types of poultry.
Christmas is more loosey-goosey around here, as the in-laws have passed away, so we no longer gather as family in their apartment. Many people take off to their maisons secondaires, or go away on vacation to ski, or sit on the beach until the first week of January. We don’t have a second home, and I’m not keen on traveling during the holidays (although if I was better at planning, I could see myself at the beach right now…), so we’re sticking around.
My birthday also lands a few days after Christmas although a majority of the restaurants in Paris close that week. The restaurant that I wanted to go to—which is like a maison secondaire for us—is closed until the first week of January, and as much as I pleaded with them to stay open just for me, they were determined to take time off. I guess that’s the price you pay when your parents don’t keep their calendars handy and conceive you 9 months before the winter holiday period in France.
The good news is that everything else slows down in Paris just after Noël, and most of us take a breather, after the sprint to the finish. Romain and I had a few friends over this month and have a few more coming, although, thankfully, the most recent dinner party is going to be just oysters, which I’m tasked to open (since I spent over a year opening oysters in a restaurant, and I’m pretty good at it), and friends brought the other goodies.
(Come to think of it, from now on, when people ask, “What can I bring?” I’m going to say, “Caviar.”)
Some might notice some riffs here from the Shallot Marmalade recipe on my website, which uses a whole pound of shallots. While shallots have a lovely natural sweetness, cutting up a pound (450g) of shallots is a heckuva lot of work.
So here I’ve used red onions and red wine. (White wine is another swap out.) For those who avoid alcohol, apple juice or cider with a splash of lemon, or non-alcoholic beer would fill in nicely.
This marmalade goes very well with pâté, a meaty terrine, vegan pâté, a charcuterie platter, and even a sharp, aged cheese. It’s also a great condiment to go on a burger or alongside roast pork or squash, or even a fowl, if that figures into your fête.
Red Onion Marmalade
One good-sized jar, about 1 1/2 cups
In lieu of the raisins, feel free to use another fruit, such as diced dried apricots or figs, dried currants, or dried cranberries. While the marmalade is good to go when freshly made, it gets better if allowed to sit for at least 24 hours to give the ingredients time to meld and get to know each other better.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound (450g) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup (185ml) red wine (or white wine — see post for other alternatives)
1/2 cup (80g) raisins, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) red wine (or cider) vinegar
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
optional: A few red chile flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
Add the wine, raisins, vinegar, sugar, honey, and chile flakes or cayenne, if using. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and is thick and syrupy, and the onions are starting to caramelize. (You may need to reduce the heat or add a little more wine or vinegar if the pan starts to dry out before they caramelize.)
Scrape the marmalade into a jar.
The marmalade will keep for at least two months in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
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The Merriest of Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to you and Romain.
Joyeux Noël et Merry Christmas! Thank you for sharing your delicious stories and recipes, which are the gifts that keep giving. Meilleurs vœux et bonnes fêtes de fin d’année 🌟🎄🍾