When cooked carefully, these are the silkiest, sweetest onions. I look for onions that are no larger than 1 1/2-inches in diameter. If you can only find larger ones, or ones that are irregularly sized, the outer leaves of the onion can be removed and used for another purpose so that the onions are consistent in size. I normally glaze the onions with chicken or vegetable stock; however, on occasion I have just used water. If your stock is very rich, it can be diluted with water before using. The stock will add richness to the onions, but should not be overpowering in flavour. I love to combine the glazed onions with young onion shoots when they are available, but they are also great with just the addition of snipped chives. Add other seasoning you love to the onions when you add the salt, such as saffron or black pepper.
To peel the onions, bring a Copper-Core sauce pan of water to a boil. Cut an ‘X’ in the root end of each onion. Drop the onions into the water for a few seconds, just long enough to loosen the skin. Remove the onions from the water and peel off the skin and outer layer of the onion if it is bruised.
Place the onions in a 3 or 4 quart sauté pan. They should fit in a single layer with room around the onions. Pour in enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the onions.
Add enough water to just come to the top of the onions. The onions will float so press down on them to determine the correct level of liquid. Add the butter, salt and sugar to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to cook the onions at a gentle simmer for about 50 minutes.
While the onions cook, bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Wash and trim the root and ends of the onion shoots.
When the water is at a boil, add enough salt for the water to taste like the sea. Add the onion shoots and blanch for a minute or until they are just tender. Remove and place in the ice water. Dry on paper towels. When the cipollini onions are tender, the liquid should be reduced to a glaze that coats the onions. If there is excess liquid, continue to simmer the liquid to a glaze. Toss the onions with the onion shoots or chives just before serving.