The lowly onion gets glamour lessons from Davasha Stalarow, the executive chef at Houston’s new 8.0 restaurant (3745 Greenbriar, Houston). The Dallas-based 8.0 has long prided itself on being a bastion of home cooking away from home, specializing in healthful food to nourish both body and soul.

The Houston outpost keeps the same menu but revives each standard with new recipes; more spices, herbs, and chiles suit the tastes of peripatetic Houstonians. Stalarow, who was trained as a zoologist and learned to cook on an offshore barge near New Orleans, has an instinctual sense of the exotic. Her deep-fried, bayou-style onion dish explores the bulb’s many-layered personality.

1015 Stuffed Onion

4 1015 onions (any large onion may be substituted)
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups bread crumbs
1 cup coarse cracker meal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
4 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
Canola oil
1/2 cup butter
1 pound shucked crawfish
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Jalapeño dressing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut root from onions, and peel off papery skins. Place onions in baking pan with chicken stock. Cover pan with foil, and bake 30 minutes, until soft. Hollow out cores.

Combine bread crumbs, cracker meal, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. In another bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, and milk. Coat onions with bread-crumb mixture, dip in egg wash, then coat with bread-crumb mixture again. Fill 8-inch saucepan with enough canola oil to submerge onions; heat to 450 degrees. Fry onions one at a time until golden brown, about 1 minute. Drain, and set aside.

Heat butter in sauté pan. Sauté crawfish, garlic, parsley, and cilantro, adding salt and pepper to taste. To serve, fill each onion with crawfish mixture and 2 tablespoons jalapeño dressing. Set 1 onion in a small pool of dressing on plate. If desired, garnish with deep-fried crawfish (use leftover bread-crumb mixture and egg wash). Serves 4.

Jalapeño Dressing

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coriander
1 cup lemon juice or vinegar
3 cups canola oil
1/4 cup minced jalapeño with some seeds
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In food processor, blend first six ingredients for 1 minute. Continue to blend, and add oil in steady thin stream until emulsified. Turn off processor, and stir in jalapeño and cilantro with a spatula.