Roasted Onions Stuffed with Ground Lamb and Apricots
Roasted sweet onions take a sweet and savory filling of ground lamb, spices, and apricots, and roast it inside of scooped out Vidalia onions. Cinnamon and cumin bring warmth and play nicely with the sweet apricots.
This Moroccan-inspired recipe is one of those dishes where less is more: a sweet onion stuffed with just cinnamon- and cumin-scented ground lamb and plump apricots. While you may be tempted to put your whole spice cabinet in the lamb filling, the simple duo of cinnamon and cumin does the trick. The fruit plays off the rich gaminess of the lamb and the spices add a subtle background flavor to tie it all together. This stuffed onion is perfect for a weeknight dinner with a green salad and steamed basmati rice, or elegant enough to make as a starter for a dinner party. The best part is that you can do this all ahead of time and just pop the stuffed onions in the oven before dinner.–Michael Schwartz
LC LESS IS MORE NOTE
Schwartz is right. Less IS more when it comes to this Moroccany oniony lamby situation, not just in terms of its spices but its sidekicks, too. Those times when you find yourself in a particularly lazy cooking mood or an exceptionally harried situation, we see the need for nothing else on the plate, aside from maybe some fragrant rice–takeout rice, if you must.
Roasted Sweet Onions
- 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dried apricots (about 16), cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces
- 1 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest preferably organic
- 4 smallish Vidalia or other sweet onions unpeeled
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 or 4 shakes store-bought or homemade hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
- In a small pot over medium heat, combine the stock, apricots, and lemon zest. Gently simmer until the apricots are plump and the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, roughly 10 minutes.
- Without peeling the onions, cut about 1 inch off the tops and just enough off the bottoms that each onion stands upright. Reserve the onion tops and discard the bottoms. Remove all but the outer two layers of each onion by scooping out the centers with a spoon or melon baller, reserving the insides. Set the onion shells in a baking dish along with the tops. Finely chop the insides.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in almost all of the chopped onions, reserving some for another use, and cook until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the lamb, cinnamon, and cumin and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, continually stirring with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is crumbly, 7 to 8 minutes. Don't drain the rendered fat; it's needed to keep the onions moist and to impart a luscious unctuousness to the overall dish.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the apricot mixture and its liquid, hot sauce to taste, and the parsley and mint. Let cool slightly. (The lamb filling can easily be prepared a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated.)
- Spoon some of the lamb mixture into each of the hollowed-out onions, pressing down with your hands and mounding it over the onions. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the onions and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
- Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are brown, about 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I usually can’t be bothered with stuffing food, but for this recipe, I’ll make an exception. I’ve had good lamb and bad lamb, so I knew I was taking my chances trying to cook it, but with only half a pound, it couldn’t be that much of a waste if I didn’t like it. I didn’t need to worry–the dish worked out well, and the lamb had a great flavor, complemented by the flavors of the rest of the ingredients.
When I do the dish again, I’ll cut back on the salt by about half, and be conservative with the butter, cutting the final butter by about half as well. The recipe says not to drain the fat, but the dish really didn’t need the extra fat to keep it moist. This dish would complement a Middle Eastern meze very well but worked well with just veggies on the side. Most Middle Eastern food is served at room temperature, and I do recommend letting the dish cool a good bit, as the cinnamon tended to overpower the dish when served straight from the oven.
I thought the cumin and cinnamon were fantastic with the lamb, and the subtle addition of the mint and parsley really freshened the dish. My only tweak would be in the proportions. There was a LOT of onion here. Stuffing the onions made a nice presentation, but when sliced up to eat it was overwhelming. Maybe smaller onions and more stuffing? After all, 1/2 pound of meat isn’t a lot for four servings. Either way, the flavor profiles definitely make this a dish to hang on to!
If Vidalia onions were available in winter in our region, these roasted onions would replace stuffed cabbage in my kitchen. They’re sweet and juicy, and the lamb and apricots make them a very hearty dinner. And the most wonderful pan juices—Oh. My. God. Just fabulous on cooked rice. The leftover onions were just as good, if not better, when reheated the next day.
It may take a while to carve out the onions depending on how tightly they are layered. But not to worry—Vidalia onions are so mild they won’t make you cry. After 30 minutes of baking, the onions were a bit firmer than I wanted them to be. An additional 15 minutes before removing the foil made them just tender.
I loved the idea of roasting stuffed sweet Vidalia onions. (This recipe made me wonder what else you can stuff into an onion and roast–what a great idea!) At first, I wondered why you wouldn’t peel the onions before roasting them, but when we took them out of the oven and served them, I realized having the peel still on the onions allowed the onions to keep their shape.
I used a melon baller to scoop out the onion’s centers, and that tool worked very well. I’m a big fan of not wasting any ingredients, so I was happy to see that we used the scooped-out onions in the lamb mixture. Maybe the onions we used were bigger than called for, but I only used the insides of two onions in the sauté; using the insides of all four would have been too much onion, I think.
I cooked the onions for about 10 minutes, so I think the recipe might want to state a 10- to 12-minute cooking time, just to be safe. The smell of the filled onions roasting was marvelous! I’d actually step up the cumin and cinnamon in the lamb mixture, however. Also, I would add a bit more salt to the mixture to really help bring out the Moroccan spices. My grocery store did not have fresh mint, so we used one tablespoon of dried mint instead; I can only imagine the fresh mint would add an additional “pop” of flavor. I’ll have to try it again with a bit more of the spices, a pinch more salt, and fresh mint.
I first loved the recipe title but was further intrigued by the savory use of cinnamon and the dried apricots. The recipe was deceptively easy to follow and prepare, given the photo-worthy results. The flavors were deep and exotic; the wafting aroma alone makes you feel as if you are dining in a far away Moroccan riad!
I also froze one of the portions, microwaved it, and found that it held up beautifully! All these need is a bright green salad with a lemony dressing, and a bit of pita or bread to soak up the yummy juices and bits of fruit and lamb filling. Both the technique and the recipe are keepers.
I used Texas Sweet 1015 onions as opposed to Vidalias, and they worked perfectly well. The end result was a hearty, delicious dish with no harsh onion flavor despite the number of onions used. Instead, we got a lot of sweet onion flavor that worked great with the spice, lamb, and dried fruit.
I served it with basmati rice and a cucumber, tomato, and chickpea salad. A couple of odd, nitpicky things to mention, though. My onions did need an extra 10 minutes to cook well (20 minutes uncovered, total), but that could be because I used a clay baking dish.
The ingredients in this recipe were readily available, and the instructions were straightforward. Following the recipe as written produced tender onions and a flavorful filling. The presentation was attractive and a bit unusual. The apricots and sweet onions kept the lamb from coming on too strong (for those who aren’t sure how much they like lamb — a consideration if choosing to serve this when entertaining).
I didn’t really taste the cumin and would add a bit more the next time. For my taste, the dish was a little on the sweet side and I would add a bit of white wine. Also, I don’t see the point of roasting the onion tops because I wouldn’t want to cover up the buttery, crunchy bread crumbs.
Originally published September 20, 2011