The Best Creamed Onions Ever
These are my take on the traditional Creamed Onion Dish that I started making from Julia Child’s original recipe. I just kept playing with it and I think maybe I have perfected this delicious dish. It is saved for special meals because of the richness of the sauce. I do think you could get by with making the béchamel portion with milk instead of cream and even eliminating the cheese… but I cannot bring myself to do so now that I have ventured beyond that.
Here is my theory on the changes: Boil the onions, and most of the flavor leaches out; roast them, and the flavor is concentrated – mellow, slightly caramelized and sweet. I decided to give them a sauce with some substance. I replaced the milk in my béchamel with dry vermouth and cream, add bay leaf and thyme, and finish it with cheese.
· 2# fresh pearl onions (yellow ones are best for this recipe)
· 2 cups of dry vermouth
· ½ small onion studded with 4 cloves
· 1 bay leaf
· 6 green pepper corns
· 1 pod of green cardamom
· 1 sprig of fresh thyme
· A pinch of dry tarragon
· 1 cup of heavy cream
· 3 tablespoons butter
· 3 tablespoons flour
· 2 cups grated Comte Cheese
· 3 tablespoons cognac
· 1 nutmeg pod and a micro plane grater
· Salt and Pepper to taste
Put the onions in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with boiling water. Allow to steep for 3 minutes. Remove the onions and strain. Using a sharp paring knife, start at the top of each onion and remove the peel, trying to only remove the papery part in one or two pieces. Once you have skinned the onion, carefully trim the root end, just cutting off the roots. Remember while you are doing this that this is a gift of love you are giving to your dinner guests. It is somewhat tedious, but well worth the effort. You are giving them something they cannot go out and buy!
Put the peeled onions in a silpat lined roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them at 350°F for about an hour, until they're soft and nicely caramelized. Shake the pan every 20 minutes to make a more uniform caramelization.
While the onions are roasting, make the sauce in a large sauce pan. Combine the vermouth, onion and spices and simmer (not rambling boil) till the vermouth is reduced by half. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Allow to steep for about 30 minutes, and then strain into a bowl.
In a clean saucepan prepare a basic béchamel, with 2 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP flour, substituting the strained steeped liquid for the milk. Once the sauce is thickened, whisk in the cheese. Season the sauce very sparingly with salt & pepper (the cheese will have made it somewhat salty already) and a generous grating of nutmeg to taste. I use almost a whole nut, but start tasting after half of it has been added. Nutmeg can be overwhelming, but this sauce can stand up to quite a lot of it. To finish the sauce I add the cognac and simmer for a minute or two.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the onions into the sauce and stir gently to blend. Keep warm till serving time or refrigerate and then gently re-warm the next day. Do not count calories, just enjoy this once or twice a year.