To showcase Vidalia onions in a dish, keep the approach simple, he explains. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper are all it takes to bring out their best nature, whether they're roasted, sautéed, or grilled. At The Optimist, Fry grills them over a wood fire and then glazes them with chicken jus. Or he might roast them with a splash of sherry for a straightforward yet incredibly satisfying side dish. "They're even great just shaved raw into a salad because their flavor is not too sharp," he says.
In the fast and easy summer salad featured here, Fry grills the baby bulbs to caramelize their sugars and lend a whiff of smoke to complement the natural sweetness. Then he pairs them with juicy heirloom tomatoes and a tangy vinaigrette with some mustardy bite to lend the right balance. "It's a play on the classic French dish—leeks vinaigrette."
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 Vidalia onion bulbs (about 1 pound)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
12 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1. Preheat charcoal or gas grill to medium heat.
2. Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil evenly over onions. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Grill 6 minutes or until well marked and greens are tender, turning occasionally. Cool completely.
3. Combine Dijon mustard and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in parsley, tarragon, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper.
4. Arrange 2 onions on each of 4 plates, and top evenly with tomatoes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon vinaigrette over each salad; top evenly with sliced eggs and minced chives.SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 salad) CALORIES 177; FAT 12.7g (sat 2.2g, mono 8.3g, poly 1.6g); PROTEIN 4.6g; CARB 11.9g; FIBER 1.8g; CHOL 93mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 378mg; CALC 47mg
Food Photo: Johnny Autry; Food Styling: Kellie Gerber Kelley; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr Portrait: Andrew Thomas Lee