January 7, 2012

Savory Fennel, Onion, & Orange Zest Upside-Down Shortcake

Last night John and I had dinner at Coconut, a Caribbean restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. After the meal, we walked down a couple of blocks to Bell's, an independent bookstore (you don't find many around these days). It is a two story historic building with over 300,000 volumes of used and rare books. This place is definately for a voracious reader. We joked that this will be a perfect place for anyone in exile or retired.
I picked up a wonderful recipe book on savory baking by Mary Cech. It has quite a few of warm and inspiring recipes that I like to bake. This one is my favorite with caramelized onions baked upside-down--great for brunch or as a side dish. The recipe asked for fennel seeds, but I opted for fresh fennel, and I've added some plum dried tomatoes to enhanced the flavor of the balsamic vinegar. The onion fillings are wonderful paired with roasted lamb chops!

Ingredients: (adapted from Savory Baking, with minor changes)
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium fennel bulb, stalks removed and slice thinly
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
2½ Tbsp. brown sugar
3-4 moist sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup dry sherry (I used a semi-dry wine wine)
¼ cup water
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
zest of 1 orange
1 cup milk
½ tsp. salt
9-inch round cake pan
1. In a large skillet, add olive oil and sauté the onions and fennel until softened. Add the wine, brown sugar, vinegar, alst and pepper. Stir well to mix, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes on medium heat. Stir the bottom to prevent onions from sticking. Add the roasted pepper, sun dried tomatoes, water and simmer for another 15 minutes until liquid has reduced by half. Remove from heat to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut an aluminum foil larger than the baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the rest of the edges hanging over the edge of the pan. Brush generously with oil on the sdies and bottom of pan. Using a spatula spread the fillings evenly into the pan.
3. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest into a food processor. Pulse it to mix and add in butter and pulse for another 8-10 seconds until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk and pulse until the mixture starts to form into a dough. Remove and carefully spread the dough over the fillings. making sure the dough fill up the sides and cover the fillings completely. Gently tap the pan on the table to make sure the mixture are evenly spreaded.
4. Put the pan in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the top of cake feels firm and comes out clean when poke with a toothpick. The cake should not be be brown on top. Remove and transfer to a rack to cool before serving.
5. To serve, run a knife around the sides of the pan. Place a large serving plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Remove the pan and foil carefully, scraping any fillings on top. Cut into generously wedges and serve warm.
Printable Recipe

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