Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Could Never Be Bored of Onions

Or an Onion Board.
I should note that I was distracted and let mine rise too long, making it more focaccia than onion board. Still, it was happily devoured by husband and son. This photo was half of the board on my largest platter. You could make this recipe as two, three or even four individual breads.

My dad loved onion boards. I mean, loved them, to the point of driving a good distance out of his way to buy one at the bagel bakery on Touhy Ave. In Chicago (or was it still Lincolnwood over there? I can't remember). Even after moving to Highland Park, he'd get in the car on Saturday night to go buy bagels (for Sunday breakfast) and an onion board. Sometimes, I'd tag along for the ride. My mother, the food police didn't think my dad should eat onion boards for some reason that escapes me now. Six bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon? Sure. Onion board? That'll kill you! I'm sure there was some logic behind it.

I loved that bakery on a Saturday night. Because they were Kosher, they didn't open until after sundown on Saturday*, and on those evenings there would be a great mix of old people, young people stopping for a quick bite on the way out for the evening, families with babies asleep in prams-it sometimes felt like the entire city (and a chunk of the suburbs) were in that small crowded bakery. Every so often a baker would emerge with a gigantic tray that would be deposited into the clear bins at the counter by flavour. I loved a pumpernickel bagel, or rye but no one else in the family did. We'd buy two for me-one to eat on the ride home, and one to be cut in half and served Sunday morning for breakfast, and the other half in my lunchbox Monday. My mum never knew about the "Ride home bagel", and she certainly never knew about the onion board-she'd have murdered us both!

My dad had spent the better part of married life avoiding my mother's cooking, "I'll just grab a cheese sandwich when I get home as I'm running late" was code for, "I've had three hot dogs and a roast beef sandwich before getting home so I don't need to eat skinless chicken cooked in vegetable juice." He was a lot of things, but he wasn't stupid-at least not stupid enough to fight with his wife over food. He'd get an onion board, and we'd stand in front of the bakery eating warm bread (lest he leave a trail of crumbs or onions in the car) that never once made either of us sick contrary to the popular wisdom that warm bread, like an onion board or extra bagel was the quickest path to the grave. We'd brush ourselves off, my dad would light up an unfiltered Camel cigarette, and by the time we arrived home mum was none the wiser. I didn't get much to eat as a child thanks to my mother's, issues around food, so that Saturday night bagel was a welcome treat.

A true onion board should be tough and chewy-like a giant bialy. Mine came up softer as I didn't get it immediately into the oven after shaping. I used eggs in my board, but traditionally, it wouldn't have eggs. This is by no means authentic, but it gets the idea across and it is softer-in case you need to eat it all quickly before someone catches you. We served ours with some cabbage rolls Danny made for dinner.

I should mention that this is my "All-purpose" onion topping that's as good on a dinner roll or a pizza as it is on onion boards. It is particularly attractive in a savoury rolled-bun with a bit of grated hard cheese.

You Will Need:
1 tablespoon instant yeast (one sachet)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup room temperature water
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, graded large
(about) 3 cups strong (bread) flour

1/2 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Water to cover

In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in corn oil, salt, eggs, and two cups of the flour. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough (you may need more or less). Knead until very elastic-about 10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour. Meanwhile, stir together the topping.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rack on the bottom. Grease a baking sheet. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible and place on pan. Top with onion mixture and immediately place in oven. Bake about 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and edges are nicely browned. Cool on rack. may be eaten warm or cold.

The bread freezes well, tightly wrapped, and can be reheated in a slow oven.

*I'm told the bakery is still there, and it now operates 24 hours. I would have appreciated that as a teen when the only place open after a concert was White Castle or Jack-in-the-Crack box.


Beth Waltz said...

It's late, I just got home from work -- and now I'm starving for an onion board or a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese, or an onion bagel with lox. Never had the pleasure of entering the shop on Touhy, but there was Morrie's in Indianapolis. This late, great humanitarian greeted the morning grumps with: "It's a beautiful morning, so give me a smile. Hey, I'll even buy one!" RIP, kind man.

Vix said...

That looks delicious! it's 8.43am here and I'd happily eat that! xxx

Veronica Cooke said...

I love bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon!

I was introduced to this food heaven aged 11 at secondary school by one of my many Jewish school friends...

The onion bread looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

Must the onion be the dried type or could you used chopped sauteed onions?
A friend recently came back from Walla Walla and gave us a bag of those sweet onions! I used a bun recipe for Lithuanian Bacon Buns ( originally from the Chicago Trib!) and made buns with raw, finely diced Walla Wallas in the middle. The steam cooked the onion while baking.

Polyester Princess said...

I loved reading your little trip down memory lane and its bakery! In my mind's eye, I can almost see you and your dad eating the forbidden goodies in front of that bakery. I've never eaten onion board, but it looks delicious. xxx

Goody said...

Flavoured cream cheese is something I've only recently discovered-I love it. Like spreading cheesecake on bread!

It took me until adulthood to appreciate the smoked salmon-you were more sophisticated than I ;)

I think you could use fresh onion, but that's a lot of finely minced onion. If you have a food processor that would make light work of it.

I think (almost) every culture has their version of a flat bread with onion. I can't remember what the French one is called, but it is delicious too-sort of like an onion pizza without cheese.

Goody said...

Not to imply French is the same as Belgian as I know better-just thinking you might find a similar bread nearby.

Radostin said...

That's a good story, I feel like a kid getting away with something just reading it. Your onion board looks great, yum yum.

Goody said...

I didn't get away with much-probably why I remember it so well.

Mim said...

I had never heard of onion board before. Thank you for sharing the memories of going to the bakery with your dad - I'm smiling at how cautious he was not to get crumbs anywhere.