Compote (vegetable relish) conformed to the medieval belief that fruit cooked in sugar syrup balanced the effects of humidity on the body. During the Renaissance, it was served chilled at the end of dinner. In modern French, the word “compote” usually refers to an unsweetened fruit puree without fruit chunks, such as applesauce.
In the Bordeaux region of southwest France, vegetables like onions are often stewed for hours in their world class wines to create a sweet accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats as well as offering a delicious relish/chutney for a charcuterie. Try them over grilled steak or juicy hamburgers for a wonderful taste treat.
Compote d’Oignon au Vin Rouge – Red Wine Onion Relish
- Food processor with large slicing blade.
- Medium pot with cover, or Dutch oven
- small saucepan
- 5 tbsp Unsalted butter
- 3½ lb Large cooking onions, halved lengthwise and cut into thick slices
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1½ cup Full-bodied French wine
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tsp Red wine vinegar
- Reserve 1 tbsp butter and melt remaining butter in pot over low heat. Add onions. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Separately, in a small saucepan, boil ⅓ of the wine until it is reduced to 1 tbsp. Add another ⅓ and reduce again to 1 tbsp. Add remaining wine and reduce to ⅓ cup. Set aside.
- Uncover the onions, increase to medium-high, and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring often. Onions should be glazed and golden brown. Sprinkle sugar over onions and continue 2-3 minutes more, stirring, until reduced to a glaze.
- Reduce heat to as low as possible. Mix in wine reduction, Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. The onions will be very soft and a deep purple by this time.
- Raise heat to medium-high and toss in 1 tbsp butter. Continue to reduce the mixture until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions begin to fry in the released fat.
- Watching carefully, turn the onions over-and-over (avoid scorching) for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Completed compote can be put in a sealed jar and be stored in the refrigerator for a week or frozen indefinitely.
- Walnuts, figs, and bacon can be added during first cook to create fun variations.