I love to hear what foods are Thanksgiving traditions for different families. There are so many wonderfully decadent dishes that are staples on our Thanksgiving menus! For our family, some form of an onion dish has always graced our Thanksgiving table. And I must say, aside from stuffing (that's my absolute favorite), the onion dish is the one I look forward to most.
In recent years ... say, for the last six years or so ... this Creamed Pearl Onion Gratin has become our traditional Thanksgiving onion dish. And man, is it delicious!! I'm so glad my Mom decided to give this recipe a chance on the Thanksgiving menu. She's made it ever since it's debut.
The only sort of 'troublesome' part of this recipe for us was the peeling of the pearl onions. See, for us, one 'batch' of this recipe, which calls for 10 ounces of fresh pearl onions, was absolutely not enough. We had to (at least!) triple the recipe ... which left Mom and I peeling at least 30 ounces of pearl onions on Thanksgiving morning. Not a real fun job. Which meant that job usually fell to me. See, for Thanksgiving dinner, Mom is the head chef. I'm the sous chef. You know what that means. (Sidenote: Though I think Mom is gradually trying to sneakily transfer her Thanksgiving head chef duties to me. I'm not being real cooperative with that.)
Given the un-fun onion peeling task, I decided it was worth giving this dish a test run using frozen pearl onions. Yes, peeling the onions is that much of a pain for us that we were willing to consider forgoing fresh onions. So, last week I did a pre-Thanksgiving trial run with frozen little pearls.
Guess what? It worked!! Beautifully. And soooooo much easier!
Now, I'm not saying to give up on fresh pearl onions ... they are absolutely delicious. And if you don't mind peeling little baby onions, or have just tons of help in the kitchen, then go for it! I'm just saying that, now, we have options. I love options.
So how do you make this creamy cheesey onion yumminess, you say? Well, I'm so glad you asked! 'Cause I'm all prepared to show you.
Start by making a basic white sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan and then whisk in some flour until it's thick and smooth. This will be the thickener, and will produce a nice creamy-textured sauce for the onions.
|Base of the white sauce|
Next, gradually whisk in half-and-half and cook until thick. Then stir in some grated white cheddar cheese. Being originally from Vermont, I (of course!) use Cabot sharp cheddar. (Another sidenote: If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I firmly stand by Vermont maple syrup and Vermont cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery! Prior to these products being readily available in North Carolina, I used to have them shipped to me. And no, Vermont and Cabot do not pay me to say these things! Now back to onions ...)
Doesn't that white sauce look gorgeous?? I know, I may get just a tiny bit too excited about food. Oh well, there are worse things in life.
|Voila! White sauce.|
Now add in your pearl onions and stir 'em around 'til they're all beautifully coated in gorgeous-and-creamy white sauce.
|Yummy pearl onions coated in white cheddar white sauce|
Transfer the onion mixture to a baking dish and top it with additional white cheddar cheese and fresh bread crumbs spiked with fresh thyme. While I will substitute frozen onions for fresh, I don't recommend skipping fresh bread crumbs and fresh thyme. I'll stay true to the fresh on those.
|Fresh bread crumbs with fresh thyme|
Bake it up until the onion mixture is nice and bubbly and the top is golden brown.
|Baked and beautiful|
Then dig in and enjoy. Yum. Our Thanksgiving table just wouldn't be complete without this!
I'd love to hear what you just can't live without on Thanksgiving. Leave me a comment about your faves!
Creamed Onion Gratin
Source: Adapted from Southern Living
10-12 oz. package fresh pearl onions OR 16 oz. package frozen pearl onions
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/4 c. half-and-half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 1/2 c. (6 oz.) shredded white cheddar cheese, divided (I use Cabot sharp cheddar)
4 T. butter, melted
1 1/4 c. fresh breadcrumbs (about 3 slices of bread; I use whole wheat)
1 or 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
For the Creamed Onions:
1. If using fresh onions, peel onions and place in a saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 6 to 8 minutes or until onions are just tender. If using frozen onions, thaw; heat in the microwave or simmer on the stovetop for 3 to 4 minutes until onions are just tender. Drain well. Set aside.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add half-and-half; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
3. Add salt, pepper, ground mustard, and nutmeg. Add 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese; stir until cheese melts. Gently stir in drained onions.
4. Pour onion mixture into a lightly greased 1-quart baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
For the Crumb Topping:
5. Combine breadcrumbs and chopped thyme. Toss breadcrumbs with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter until crumbs are well coated. Sprinkle evenly over onion mixture.
6. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until thoroughly heated through and the top is golden.