Vermouth Onions

I bought a bottle of Hendrick’s gin for the boar roast, thinking that none of us would be too cranked on beer to enjoy a martini or two…  Boy was I wrong.  I was supposed to live-blog each step of the cooking process and I think I got as far as the first turning of the ribs, which actually started before anyone arrived.  Shame on me.  At this point, it’s totally irrelevant, though.  Being broke and unemployed, I relied heavily on the good graces of my friends to supply a lot of the various other side dishes and booze for the event.  Then it started to rain, which inevitably led to more drinking because what the heck else are you going to do when the weather gets that way?

Someone else brought some vermouth.  A third person brought bleu cheese and spanish olives.  Ideally, this would make some really interesting martinis.  Embury says a cocktail is only as good as its worst component, and boy, was he right.  The vermouth was crap and the olives were worse.  The end result was one dumped martini and a depleted supply of homemade lemonade, and an empty bottle of gin.  But what of the vermouth?  What do you do with a three-quarter full bottle of vermouth?

Before a few days ago, I didn’t even know what vermouth was.  Apparently, in the old days it was a wine made in Germany that was flavored with herbs and wormwood.  I knew that absinthe is also a wormwood drink, but have not yet tried absinthe so I don’t know if the flavors are similar but the vermouth in my fridge is a mildly dry white wine with some herbal or floral notes at the back end.  Wikipedia also says it can be subbed for white wine when cooking, and as I am not really a fan of drinking white wine, I was waiting to see what I might be able to concoct that’d get this weird stuff out of my refrigerator.

Let me digress a moment:  We’ve not had pork chops in my house in over a year, literally.  Cathy asked me if we could pan fry some chops in butter and onions, and after thinking about it for a half-second, I realized that it would be probably be a damn good meal, and that we’d probably been in the dark on pork chops for so long that even if they turned out like boot leather, they’d still be different enough to be really good.  She also asked for sauteed onions as a garnish.

My first instinct was to finish the onions and then cook the chops, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed as though the right answer was to fry the chops in butter and then saute the onions in the drippings and butter. So I did that instead.  But by the time I’d pan-fried all 16 thin chops in butter I had quite the rime on the bottom of my pan.

Enter the vermouth.

I poured about one and a half cups of dry vermouth into the hot butter to deglaze the pan and then dropped three sliced onions into the resulting bubbling concoction.  Almost immediately, the smell became overpowering in a very good way.  The onions began to cook down and I stopped to taste them.  I then added a dash of sea salt and tasted again.  Something was still missing.  I realized I had some fresh rosemary left over from the ratatouille experiment in the freezer, and I dropped one small sprig of rosemary into the frying pan.  Almost immediately, the character of the aroma shifted from caramel sweet to a deep herbal freshness.  Perfect.  After a few more minutes, the onions were completely tender and caramelized to accent the pork chops.  The vermouth completely removed the burn-on from the chops, and the resulting sauteed onions were actually the best I have ever eaten, in my life.

The pork chops were mighty tasty, but the vermouth onions were the stars of the show.

Here’s what ya need in order to do it:

2 sticks of butter

3 medium – large onions cut into wide slices

16 thin-sliced porkchops

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1.5 cups of dry vermouth


One Response to “Vermouth Onions”

  1. Great! I too have a unused bottle of vermouth hanging about with no hope for the future. I take my martinis in the Churchhill fashion: with only a whisper of the word “vermouth” over them.

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