The first year that my husband and I celebrated Thanksgiving together, he asked me if we were going to have creamed onions. I said, "Are we going to have what??" I had never heard of them (we weren't big on creamed anything in my house growing up). I was certain that they must have been the only family to ever put such a dish on their Thanksgiving table! I told him that, although all of our guests would probably think it was a strange dish to serve, I would find a recipe for creamed onions and make it just for him. On Thanksgiving day, when we all sat down at the table, one of our guests exclaimed "Creamed onions! I love those!", and he proceeded to eat multiple servings. I chose to avoid eye contact with my husband, not wanting to face his triumphant "told you so" look. Since then, I have come to find out that creamed onions are a fairly common side dish for the holidays. The problem is, that many of the recipes which I have found for them are extremely bland sounding, basically just cream and onions. I always end up adding several ingredients to help to give them more personality. The following recipe, with the addition of Sherry, 2 types of mustard, Herbes de Provence, and the bubbling cheese topping, offers up lots of great flavors. Even the creamed-onion "rookies" will ask for seconds! Here are my notes for this recipe:
- I offer the option to use either fresh or frozen onions. I strongly suggest using the frozen (and thawed) kind. First of all, it will be far less expensive. I paid about $2.50 for the frozen onions (C&W makes some in 14 ounce bags), and I would have ended up paying about $10 for the 2 pounds of fresh. Secondly, using the frozen onions is much less labor intensive. Peeling just one of those little guys can be a chore, so imaging peeling all 2 pounds of them. Is your decision becoming easier???? You won't be able to tell the difference in the end.
- Herbes de Provence is an herb blend that consists of lavender, thyme, basil, and fennel. If you don't have any on hand and don't want to purchase a jar (it can be a little pricey), then just use 2 teaspoons of dried thyme in its place. Thyme is the predominant herb anyhow, so it will have a similar effect. If you do want to purchase a jar, for future reference, Herbes de Provence tastes great in pan sauces for chicken or pork, sprinkled over root vegetables before roasting, or in soups.
- Do not use skim or 2% milk--it will not thicken as well.
- The creamed onions, without the cheese, can be made up to the point prior to broiling one day ahead. Chill, uncovered, until cool, and then cover them. Bring them to room temperature, and then reheat in a 400F degree oven for about 20 minutes before sprinkling with cheese and broiling.
Creamed Onions au Gratin
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds white pearl onions or 2 14-ounce bags frozen pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Sherry
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
If using fresh pearl onions, cook onions in a large heavy pot of boiling water until tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain the onions and cool to warm and then peel. If using the frozen onions, thaw the onions completely by draining in a colander prior to proceeding.
Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the Herbes de Provence, chicken stock, milk, and Sherry and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture had thickened, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the mustards, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the onions to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes until thick.
Preheat the broiler. Transfer the creamed onions to a baking dish and sprinkle them evenly with the cheese. Broil 4-5 inches from the heat until the top is golden brown and bubbling, 4-5 minutes.