Jeweled Rice Stuffed Onions
The gorgeous flavor and color of saffron rice is the star of this show. With beautiful textures and flavors of dried fruit, nuts and tender onions.
- 1.5 tbsp. Kosher Salt (Diamond Crystal), for the onion water
- 2 Large Yellow Onions, ends trimmed and peeled
- 1/4 cup Sliced Almonds
- 1/2 tsp. Loosely Packed Saffron, crumbled
- 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 4 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, divided. Plus more for drizzling on finished stuffed onions
- 1 cup Basmati Rice, rinsed until water runs clear
- 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted
- 2 cups Water, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin
- 1/8 tsp. Ground Cardamom
- 1/4 cup Shelled Salted Pistachios, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 tbsp. Golden Raisins, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 tbsp. Dried Tart Cherries, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup Chopped Parsley, plus more for garnish
- Flaky Finishing Salt, optional for garnish
Start a pot with about 3 quarts of water to boil. Slice the roots and tips off of the two onions and peel off the papery outer layer. The with one cut side down, make a cut into one side. From the center to the edge. Basically making a slit in the whole onion.
When the water is boiling, add 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt. Then use tongs to lower each onion in the boiling water. reduce the heat to simmer the onions for about 20 minutes. They are ready to transfer to a plate to cool when they are slightly translucent and you can feel their squishier texture when you lift them out of the water with tongs.
While the onions are boiling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees for toasting the sliced almonds. Spread the almonds on a small sheet tray and toast them in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, just until they begin to turn golden and are fragrant. When the almonds come out, turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.
Let the onions cool enough to handle. We need the smaller inside layers for the jeweled rice filling.
To separate the onion layers, just use your fingers to go between the layers and gently let them fall apart from each other. The outermost layers will be large, so slice them in half to make two pieces. You want around 20 onion "shells." Set the onion "shells" aside.
The innermost layers will be too small to stuff, so dice those and we will use them in the jeweled rice filling.
Mix the saffron with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
In an oven safe, 12-inch skillet (with a lid), sauté the diced innermost onion layers in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When the onions are translucent and soft, add the rinsed rice to the skillet and pour on half of the melted butter. Stir the rice in the butter and onion/olive oil mixture to coat the rice.
When the rice is mixed in, add the saffron/lemon juice mixture and stir well to fully mix the rice into the saffron. Then stir in the cumin, cardamom and cinnamon stick.
Add 1 cup of water, stir and bring to a vigorous simmer. Cover, let the mixture simmer covered for 3 minutes, until the water is absorbed. The rice will not be cooked through, but we want the water to be absorbed.
Now, turn off the heat and stir in the toasted almonds, chopped pistachios, the dried fruit and the chopped parsley.
Stuffing the Onions
Set up your onion stuffing station. To minimize mess, leave the pan of jeweled rice on the stovetop. Directly alongside the jeweled rice, set a small rimmed sheet tray (this will catch our filled onions). Then on the other side of the sheet tray, set your plate of onion "shells."
Use a tablespoon to scoop the jeweled rice. Then, working over the sheet tray, hold an onion shell in one hand and scoop rice with your other hand. Go with about 2 tablespoons of rice per onion, adding a little more or a little less rice depending on the size of the onion shell. We want the sides of the onion shells to loosely cover the rice. The rice isn't cooked through, so it will expand further.
Nestle the filled onions on the sheet tray. At this point, once the onions are filled, you can cover the sheet tray and refrigerate to finish cooking at a later time or the next day.
Baking the Jeweled Rice Stuffed Onions
The oven should be preheated to 400 degrees F. Back to the now-empty braiser or pan (no need to wash it out). Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the oil around to coat the surface. Now transfer the stuffed onions to the oil-coated pan. Nestle the stuffed onions in a circular pattern in the pan.
Toss the cinnamon stick back in (if you want) and pour in one cup of water. Then sprinkle the onions with kosher salt and black pepper and drizzle the remaining half of the melted butter over the stuffed onions.
Cover the pan and bake the onions for 30 to 40 minutes. My batch needed the whole 40 minutes. When they come out, taste test the rice for doneness. Drizzle the onions with olive oil.
Sprinkle the onions with more chopped parsley to finish. If you want, you can sprinkle on a little more chopped nuts and/or dried fruit for garnish. I added a little more chopped dried fruit and flaky finishing salt.