A little southern onion comfort food

Savory Onion Pie

By Nikki Miller-Ka, NikSnaks

I’ve taken all of the important and the subtle nuances of onions and layered them into this savory pie. It’s a cross between a classic southern tomato pie, a buttermilk pie and an onion tart. The caramelized onions start in a slow cooker with sherry and thyme (if you feel fancy). Overnight, the translucent petals of white, yellow, red and sweet onions melt, become bronzed and bathe in their own juices to produce a cohesive tangle of skins that are baked under a mayonnaise and Parmesan crust inside of a buttery pie shell and garnished with a little bit of fresh chopped chives. It’s super fantastic.

Onions are literally the foundation of most every savory dish. The classic mirepoix combo of onions, carrots and celery is the first thing culinary students around the planet begin their education and it continues on to how to slice, dice and add onions to everything. Raw diced onions garnishing a bowl of pinto beans is the comfort food of winter time blues while fried onion rings are always a treat at fast food establishments. 

I was inspired by a pie I had at a friend’s house. When I asked her for the recipe, I was surprised it was held together with just two eggs and a cup of Greek yogurt. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I went ahead to improve upon it. This pie literally has ALL OF THE ONIONS. They’re not cut with potatoes, loads of cheese, bacon or spicy peppers. It’s all onion, all of the time. A time-honored Southern-inspired pie, tomato pie, usually has a mayo and cheese crust and it’s baked until the center isn’t jiggly and the top is bubbly and brown. It’s a thing of beauty. 

BUT–The magic literally happens in the Crock Pot over the course of 5 hours or overnight. The beauty of this recipe is the same onions are also used to make the next recipe, Slow Cooker 5 Onion Soup (stay tuned for that gem).

Served with a fresh salad of mixed greens or kale, it’s the perfect light lunch or light dinner. 

Southern Savory Onion Pie 


Yield: 6-8 slices (per pie; 2 pies)

2 to 4 pounds white, yellow, red, and sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons cooking sherry

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
4 dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Texas Pete)
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups caramelized onions
1 pie shell
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1. Transfer all of the thinly sliced onions to the slow cooker — the slow cooker should be half to three-quarters full.

2. Cook for 5 hours on HIGH or 10 hours on LOW.

3. Stir occasionally, if possible — this will help them cook more evenly, but is not necessary.

4. After 5-10 hours, the onions will be golden-brown and soft, and they will have released a lot of liquid. Remove onions to a large bowl and let cool.

5. If you like onions with a deeper color, continue cooking for another 3 to 5 hours on LOW. Leave the lid ajar so the liquid can evaporate. Check every hour and stop cooking whenever the onions look and taste good.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

7. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the cooled onions with yogurt, hot sauce, eggs and salt and pepper. Make sure all ingredients are well blended and then pour into 1 pie shell.

8. In a small bowl, mix grated cheese, mayonnaise, salt and pepper until well-blended. Spoon mixture on top of the onion mixture in the pie shell.

9. To prevent burning or over-browning the pie crust, cover the crust with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

10. Remove foil from the pie crust and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Garnish with chives, if using. Let cool for a few minutes to settle before slicing.

Pie can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

This blog was written by Nikki Miller-Ka, a chef and food blogger of Nik Snacks based in North Carolina.

Nikki Miller-Ka writes about her life as a professional chef, foodie, local and regional restaurant trends, food organizations, food producers and everything culinary on her blog, Nik Snacks. Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.  Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast.  She has worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Go to: http://www.niksnacksonline.com.

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Put French Onion Soup in your recipe repertoire

You’ve learned so much about onions, it’s now time to try the penultimate onion dish: French Onion Soup. Hightail it to the store and stock up with a good 5 pounds of onions.

We’ve got the perfect recipe.

French Onion Soup Gratinée

The use of chicken broth and white wine in this recipe makes for a lighter than normal French Onion Soup, but cookbook author Linda Carucci — and our millennial cook, Hannah, think it’s worth it. See how its done in this video.

Ingredients

5 pounds large yellow onions, sliced 1/16 inch thick

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth

6 cups homemade chicken broth

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf, preferably imported

1 tsp kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

12 baguette slices (not sourdough), each ¾ inch thick and cut diagonally

6 ounces Gruyére cheese, coarsely shredded on the large holes of a box grater to yield 1 ½ cups

Directions

Heat a heavy 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add butter. When butter is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they wilt and lose their moisture (about 10 minutes).

Cook onions about 25 minutes altogether.

Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook until onions are caramelized (about 15 minutes). They should be sticky and clinging together. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine all at once. When wine evaporates, add chicken stock, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so soup is at a steady simmer, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

The bay leaf and sprigs of thyme should be discarded after the soup has cooked.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and arrange an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Line a sturdy, rimmed backing sheet with a silicone baking liner or aluminum foil. Arrange 6 deep, ovenproof soup bowls or 12-ounce ramekins on the lined baking sheet and set aside.

Place the baguette slices on another baking sheet and lightly toast both sides under the broiler. They will need only 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside and leave broiler on.

When the soup is done, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each with 2 toasted baguette slices placed side by side.Top the baguette slices with the cheese, dividing evenly among bowls.

Gruyere cheese and toasted French Bread top off this soup nicely.

Place the baking sheet with the soup bowls under the broiler and watch closely, moving the pan as needed to expose al the bowls to the broiler element so the cheese melts evenly. Remove from the oven as soon as the cheese has melted, a bout 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Copyright Linda Carucci, www.CookingSchoolSecrets.com. Permission granted for use in this National Onion Association blogpost. 

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Yes, onions make a chocolate cake better

Chocolate is usually paired with fruit, so when you talk about onions and chocolate together, it might seem unusual.  Our guest chef, Hannah, wanted to not only satisfy her own chocolate craving, but see if she could get some onions past her 5-year-old, so this cake was the perfect ruse! Hannah’s thoughts? The cake tasted like peanut M&Ms. This is a cake that shouldn’t sit around, however. The best flavor and texture is on the first day, and the onion flavor starts to come through after the cake stands for 2 to 3 days.

See Hannah’s onion cake-baking experience — and her daughter’s reaction — here.

Give this great Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake a try.

 

A dark, rich, moist but light-textured chocolate cake with heaps of satiny chocolate fudge frosting.

6          ounces unsweetened chocolate

1          cup yellow onion, finely diced

1          cup vegetable oil, divided

2          cups sugar

2          eggs

1          teaspoon vanilla

2          cups all-purpose flour

1          teaspoon baking soda

1/2       teaspoon salt

1          cup milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar

Easy Fudge Icing (recipe follows)

 

Melt, chocolate in saucepan, stirring over low heat, or in microwave oven.  Caramelize onion by sauteing over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet until soft.  In large bowl, beat remaining oil with sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Beat in warm melted chocolate and caramelized onions. Mix flour with baking soda and salt; stir into batter alternately with milk.  Divide batter evenly into 2 well-greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out dry.  Cool 15 minutes then invert onto wire racks to thoroughly cool.  Spread on icing.

 

Easy Fudge Icing:

Melt 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate with 1/2 cup butter in saucepan, stirring often over very low heat.  Mix in 1/2 cup hot water then turn into mixing bowl.  Beat in about 5 cups powdered sugar, a portion at a time.  (Adjust as needed to make a good consistency.)  Quickly fill and frost cake while icing is still warm.  If some icing gets too cool to spread easily, place it in microsafe bowl and microwave shortly just until softened and lustrous.

Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

 Per serving: About 830 cal, 8 g pro, 110 g carb, 46 g fat, 46% cal from fat, 58 mg chol, 295 mg sod, 6 g fiber.

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The Many Ways to Enjoy Onions

A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.  Onions are one of the most versatile vegetables.  They can be eaten raw, sautéed, roasted, marinated or grilled.  Onions add layers of flavor and nutrition to your meals.  Here are several ways you can prepare onions:

Use raw onion in salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, homemade salsas and relishes for unmatched flavor and crispness.

Marinate onions in balsamic vinegar for salads and dressings or as a sandwich topping.

Sauté or caramelize onions for a flavorful, yet quick and easy, side dish or topping for chicken, fish and other meats. Serve alone or with a medley of other vegetables, rice, or pasta to make a vegetarian main dish.

Put onions on the grill to spice up the next barbecue.  Just slice onions and brush with olive oil, then grill over medium coals until tender and slightly charred. Onions can also be used on kabobs or tossed with herbs and served over grilled meat.

Take a whole peeled onion, hollow it out and fill with chili, rice, pasta, meat, or vegetables and bake for a delicious one-dish meal.

Place onions in a roasting bag with meat or other vegetables or in a favorite slow cooker recipe for a home-cooked meal with extra savory, mouthwatering flavor.

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Faster Caramelized Onions with Baking Soda

Yes, you can caramelize onions quicker!

 

Nothing beats the sweet flavor of caramelized onions, but the reward is not without a little effort. Truly caramelized onions that are dark brown and soft with a flavor as sweet as candy take around 45 minutes to make — sometimes longer. They also need to be watched closely.

Since not everyone has that kind of time, when we heard about a short-cut, we decided we had to try it. Apparently, the trick to getting onions to caramelize more quickly is to add baking soda.

The idea left us both curious and a little skeptical. Caramelized onions are a specialty around here, and we are always willing to put in the extra time for all that deliciousness. But who are we to deny others from saving time in the kitchen?

Are you curious about this time-saving trick, too? Read on to find out how it went in our test kitchen.

Why baking soda?

First, it’s important to understand what is happening during the caramelization process and how baking soda is influencing it. As onions cook, they release their moisture and cells begin to break down, causing them to soften. Sugars are released and as they heat up, both caramelization and a common chemical reaction in food occurs, called a Maillard reaction or Maillard browning. Both of these create the dark golden brown color we associate with caramelized onions.

When you add baking soda during cooking it changes the pH which increases the Maillard reaction causing the onions to brown more quickly. The higher pH also causes the onions to soften more quickly, which we cover below when we discuss the texture.

How we tested the trick

It’s important not to use too much baking soda as it can change the flavor of the onions and give them an unappealing chemical-like taste. Most recipes call for a pinch, but a pinch is up for interpretation so we wanted to define it. We also read to limit the amount to ¼ teaspoon per pound of onions. In the end, we decided to err on the side of caution and added an ⅛ of a teaspoon to 1 pound of yellow onions with the recipe below.

1 pound yellow onions, sliced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

⅛ teaspoon baking soda

We added both the onions and the butter to the pan at the same time and turned the burner to medium heat. We started our timer at this point and continued to stir until the butter melted, then stirred the onions often as they caramelized.

 

The results

Our onions were soft and caramelized in about 13 minutes. Not too far off from suggestions we found around the Internet that it would take 10 minutes, and a lot less than the typical 45 minutes when not using baking soda. That being said, there were pros and cons to this quicker method.

Below are images of the onions as they cooked. Working clockwise, it starts with the onions just a couple minutes after the butter had completely melted. Then at about six minutes, followed by eight minutes, and finally at 10 minutes.

Color

The onions took on a yellow hue almost immediately after cooking and maintained a bit of an orange color throughout the process. At 10 minutes, they finally started to show signs of turning brown versus orange and at that point we continued to 13 minutes to obtain the darker golden brown color you see in the final images.

Flavor

No chemical taste with these onions. They were delicious. Maybe even a little sweeter than using the longer method.

Texture

The onions dissolved a bit more and became creamy, almost like an onion jam. This was expected with the higher pH and it can be good or bad, depending on how you plan to use the onions.

For blending the onions into dips or spreading onto a sandwich, the caramelizing with baking soda provides the perfect end result. The soft texture allows them to blend right in with other ingredients and they are nearly spreadable.

If you are hoping for visual appeal and a bit of bite to the onions, the quick caramelized method probably isn’t the way to go. For example, if you want to put them on a pizza or pile them on a bite-size appetizer.

Something else to note

The onions did make a bigger mess in the pan. The sides became very dark as the onions cooked. We highly recommend using a non-stick pan to make clean-up a bit easier.

Will we use the quick method again?

Yes! Especially when we are in a hurry to put together a recipe with caramelized onions that calls for blending the onions into a dish with other ingredients. We’ll stick with the longer, traditional method for our caramelized onion for pizzas and other topping purposes, though.

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