Charred Onions in Cheese Sauce 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Dec 11, 2013

You can use any small onions for this recipe: shallots, white onions or boiler onions. Shallots will add another deep hue to a finished bowl already alive with color.

If you use cast iron for these oil-less charring duties, you will probably need to re-season your pan afterward.

You'll need to soak 1 cup of hickory wood chips in water for 1 hour, and you'll need cheesecloth. Be sure to turn on the stove's exhaust fan when you are smoking/charring.

Make Ahead: Leftover kale oil can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 5 ounces kale leaves, stems removed
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ounces feta cheese (in one chunk)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 ounces Tomme cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 6 small (unpeeled) onion, such as shallots or boiler onions
  • Kosher salt


Line a mixing bowl with at least two layers of cheesecloth.

Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat.

Add the kale leaves to the skillet, stirring them constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 or 3 minutes, until they have random char marks. Transfer to a food processor or blender, along with the vegetable oil; puree until smooth. Pour into the cheesecloth; gather up the edges of the cheesecloth to squeeze the deeply green oil into the bowl. The yield should be about 1/3 cup. Discard the solids.

Drain the wood chips, then toss them into a medium saucepan over high heat. (Do not use an enameled pan, as the chips may ruin the inner surface.) Once the chips begin to smoke, place the feta cheese in a heatproof strainer directly over the chips. Smoke the cheese for 4 to 5 minutes; the feta should have a noticeable woody aroma. Transfer to a plate. Cool the chips, then discard them.

Heat the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the tomme and smoked feta until thoroughly incorporated, to form a milky sauce. Reduce the heat to low; keep warm.

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling. Add the onions; boil for 2 minutes and then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the lined plate to cool.

Heat the same dry pan you used to char the kale leaves over high heat.

Cut each onion in half. Arrange them cut side down in the pan; cook for about 5 minutes, until thoroughly charred on the bottom, then transfer to a plate to cool.

Carefully separate each layer of each onion half, discarding any soggy outer skins; they should resemble miniature cups with charred edges.

Place about 10 onion cups on the bottom of a wide, shallow bowl, cup sides up. Add about one-quarter of the cheese sauce to the bowl so the liquid surrounds and partially fills the onion cups. Use a spoon to drizzle some of the kale oil over the top, creating little dots along the surface of the liquid. Season lightly with salt.

Repeat for the remaining three portions. Serve right away.

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Recipe Source

From Rene Redzepi, chef-owner of Noma in Copenhagen.

Tested by Tim Carman.

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