Cookbook author Maida Heatter writes today in Salon about onion sandwiches. The article includes a recipe from James Beard. Heatter notes "Before Beard became famous for his cooking classes and cookbooks, he ran a catering business that specialized in hors d'oeuvres--and he told me once that onion sandwiches were his most popular item. He'd sold millions of them, he said. That may be, but I later learned that his recipe for them varied from publication to publication."
I have a better recipe, a non-hors d'oeuvres version, than the one she provides. It came from my late uncle Bob Anderson who demonstrated it one summer when he was visiting me in Seattle during Walla Walla season. Here it is:
• Black Russian rye bread (such as Bremner Brothers)
• Walla Walla onion, peeled and sliced thinly
• Dijon mustard
• lemon juice
Cover the bottom slice of bread with butter and the top slice with Dijon. Place sliced onions on the buttered slice, sprinkle the onions lightly with sugar (about 1/2 tsp. for a small sandwich, and 1 tsp for a large sandwich) and then dampen the sugar with lemon juice (1/2 to 1 tsp.) and top with the Dijon-spread slice.
Caution: It's essential to make this with very fresh, in-season sweet onions. Regular yellow or white onions will taste bitter, and older sweet onions will make you think that Heatter, Beard, Uncle Bob and I are all crazy.