Monday, October 24, 2011

Creamed Onions with Thyme and Gruyere Cheese (Onion Gratin)


Humble, simple ingredients. Elegant fare. Cooking at its finest.


This is really an "onion gratin." But who goes around saying "gratin?" I have no idea where I got this recipe. But since I took the time to type it up it means two things: a) I made changes and b) it was good. I know it was good because I included the following comment, "This was so good I licked the plate." I haven't made it in years. I'm glad I re-discovered it!

This is a beautiful side for any beef dish, especially beef tenderloin. Sweating the onions is the only time-consuming part of the whole deal. 

I love a dish like this that uses the simplest of ingredients and ends up both elegant and delicious.

I use regular yellow onions. Look for onions that are firm with tight skins and no blemishes. To avoid tears, use a very sharp knife and never cut an onion with a serrated knife. Onions that have been refrigerated produce the least amount of tears.


A word about black pepper. Compared to twenty years ago, we now have access to a wide variety of pepper, many we can grind ourselves. But for a recipe like this, I use regular table pepper. My favorite brand is McCormick. It's finely ground and I know I can depend on its consistent taste.

Serves 4-6 (or two piggies)

  • 2  - 2.5 lbs. yellow-skinned onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) dry thyme leaves, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 350 F. degrees. Butter or spray a shallow baking dish about 10 x 7 or 10 x 6. Set aside.

To cut the onions: Cut off stem and blossom ends from onion. Peel outer skins and discard or freeze for soup base. Slice onion in half. Place cut side down and slice into 1/2 inch-slices.



Peel and cut the garlic clove into very thin slices. Then slice into strips and mince. Set aside

Grate cheese using large holes a box grater. Set aside

Measure the cream, beef stock, thyme, pepper and salt into a micro-wave safe bowl or measuring cup. Add just a pinch or two of the minced garlic. Microwave for about 1 minute or just until warm. Taste for salt. Whisk in the tablespoon of flour. Set aside.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add onions and cook over medium heat until they begin to brown. This will take a good 20-30 minutes or so. It's important to "sweat" them using a low heat. Don't hurry the process. Why are you doing this? You want to release the water from the onion which will intensify its taste. You can raise the heat a bit toward the end. You don't want to caramelize the onions, just sweat and brown them. Just before they're done, add a few pinches of the garlic (I never use the full one clove of garlic). Stir in for about one minute or so paying close attention that the garlic bits don't burn. You don't want the garlic to overpower the onions in this dish.

All wormy and yummy!

Remove onions from heat and layer into baking dish. Return pan to heat and add one tablespoon or so of dry, white wine to de-glaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits on bottom of pan. Drizzle over onions. Drizzle cream mixture over onions while stirring it at the same time to keep the flour incorporated and evenly distributed. Cream mixture will not cover the onions. Top with cheese.




Bake for about 25-30 minutes until it is a bubbling and onions and cheese have browned a bit. It will not have a "crust." Remove from oven and allow to rest at least 20-30 minutes to allow juices to thicken. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. 

It's important to let this rest a bit so the juices have a chance to thicken up.


Notes: My baking dish was a bit deeper than I would have liked. I suppose one could use a good Swiss cheese, such as Jarlsburg, which is less expensive than Gruyere. In my "notes" I have half '1/4 cup grated Gruyere and 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan.' I went with all Gruyere. The last five minutes or so, I raised the oven temperature a bit. When I removed it, it was a bubbly mass.



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