Mr. Chili and I have been going around and around about onions lately. There was a scene in our kitchen on Monday night when I suggested cheese soup for dinner and he suggested that he cook it. This set off my alarm bells – he’s usually not huge on cooking dinner – so I asked him exactly WHY he wanted to make it. His answer was, and I’m quoting here, “COUGH*onions!*COUGH!”
You see, Mr. Chili is nowhere NEAR as fond of onions as I am, and it seems that I put a few too many of the pungent bits in my cheese soup for his liking. He insisted that we pull out a cookbook and follow the recipe exactly (I usually make cheese soup from scratch and from memory). I think he thought that, in a “real” recipe, there were no onions. He was wrong, but he stood over me to make sure that ONLY two tablespoons went into the soup, just like the recipe said.
Anyway, long story short is that my traditional contribution to holiday meals is a dish of creamed onions. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “CREAMED onions? Ugh! How VILE!” and, really, I wouldn’t disagree with you if I haven’t had this dish. Really, “creamed” anything doesn’t really appeal to me – all I get from “creamed” as an adjective in front of food are horrid flashbacks of nasty, half congealed things that make nightmarish sucking sounds as they’re forced out of cans. Such was the experiences of my childhood.
This recipe was originally given to me by my adopted mother, who messed with it a bit before giving it to me. I, in turn, fiddled with the recipe a little more, and I think I’ve found onion Nirvana. Trust me when I tell you, this is really very, very good.
Preheat oven to 350
In a large frying pan, combine 4T melted butter with 1c bread crumbs (I use store-bought, Italian style crumbs) and toast until slightly browned and fragrant. Set these aside and then melt 1 stick butter and sautée 3 finely chopped onions – you don’t want them to brown; only let them get soft and translucent. Sprinkle 1/4 c flour over them (I use a small colander to make sure there are no lumps) and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring the whole time.
Once the flour is cooked, slowly add 2c milk or cream (I do half milk and half whipping cream – I only eat this once or twice a year, and going low-fat seems a rip off). Season with salt and pepper, transfer to casserole, cover with crumbs, and bake 30-40 minutes or until the onions are thick and bubbly and the crumbs are crispy.
I make this a day ahead, skipping the baking step. The whole thing cools on the counter until it’s really cool (otherwise, condensation collects on the lid and the crumbs get mushy) and stashed, covered, in the fridge. The next day, the casserole gets popped, UNcovered, into the oven until it’s heated through and yummy. Then, my aunt-in-law, my twin brother-in-law and I fight over the stuff at the holiday table.
What food traditions do YOU love?