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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creamed Onions

I have never made creamed onions in my long history of cooking. And frankly, I don't even remember eating them. But I came across the idea on a cooking show, oh, sometime around two in the morning recently and I thought - "that might be nice!"

It is a dish our family has never had at any of our gatherings. It would be a treat, a surprise. My little sister Linda said I shouldn't make anything because I had just finished making curtains, chair pads, quilted place mats, 16 dinner napkins. She thought that that was enough. But who can go to a holiday dinner without food in hand?

So I bought three pounds of pearl onions, a huge bunch of dill, a quart of cream and off I was.

I put the onions in a large pot of boiling water for two minutes just to loosen the skins. With my knives very sharp, I began to remove the skins, cutting off the roots and trying to leave the thin tops on because they are so pretty that way. Half way through, the skins began to be difficult to remove, so I put them back in the hot water for another minute and that was enough to get the rest of the skins off. The onions are so lovely. You don't realize it until you are holding a handful of them and their translucence is so glistening.

I trimmed the thick stems from the dill and chopped it rather large. I wanted to be able to see the herb and to feel it on the tongue. There was a lot of dill. I used only half of it. I put the rest of it on a paper towel and placed that on a dish to dry out in the open. When you have fresh herbs that you can't use, chopping and drying them is really the best thing to do. I put them in small jars after they have dried at least a week. they have to be completely dry before storing. When I need them, it is almost like they were fresh from the market. I love that about fresh herbs. No waste. I put the dill to the side.

I then began the roux. I melted two tablespoons of butter and threw in three tablespoons of flour. This I cooked for a few minutes until the flour took on a bit of a nutty look. Then I began to whisk in the cream. Slowly. You have to do this slowly at first otherwise you will have a lumpy mess. Then keep adding cream until it thickens. Then add in a handful of dill. I had already turned the fire on under the empty onion pot so that it was hot but not burning. I then threw in the onions and the cream. I stirred it gently so as to not break the onions. I had to add a bit more cream. the roux keeps thickening as it cooks so you have to make adjustments. A very small amount of salt and a good twisting of pepper. I put it in the beautiful bowl and off to Linda's I was, Proud. This is going to be a winner.

When I walked in, I stopped dead in my tracks. My sister Suzanne had also made creamed onions. Oh I felt so bad. Here I was thinking it was going to be so great and it was a total disaster. Suzanne and Linda had discussed the menu and didn't tell me because they thought, because of all the work I put into the dining room, that I wouldn't bring anything. Even now, I am sitting here feeling so bad. I mean, who would have thought that two sisters would think the same thing on the same holiday!!!

Well, you have my recipe anyway, should you want to make them. Suzanne brought her onions home and we served mine. I never even got to taste hers. I still feel awful and that was four days ago!! I am going to burn in hell!!

I managed to bring home a container with maybe five onions left and some of the cream sauce. The picture you see is what I turned it into today. I took out a package of chicken sausage with sweet apples, cut them into small slices and sauteed them. In a large pot, I cooked up really quickly some fresh spinach that I roughly chopped for about one minute. I didn't want it to be too soft. I then boiled up the water and cooked some curly pasta. While that was cooking I made another roux and added some leftover cream and a bit of chicken stock and guess what? I had that leftover dill drying on the dish. I threw that into the new sauce. When the pasta was done I reserved some of the liquid, of course, then threw everything together. A week of dinners.

I used regular butter. I know. All the chefs use unsalted butter. But I don't use butter that often and unsalted butter has a short shelf life. So I use regular butter and taste before I salt. Oh and I love the fresh cracked pepper. I don't understand how a chef can spin the cracked pepper three or four times in a huge dish and think it will flavor the dish? If I am making a huge dish that fills my biggest casserole, four cranks of the pepper mill don't do it for me. Or do I have the wrong pepper mill? Do the chefs have special pepper mills that I don't know about? When I was cooking in a professional kitchen, Chef Clayton really used his mill. I could see the pepper. It was beautiful.

I love cooking. It just makes me feel whole.

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