Creamed onions have been part of our Thanksgiving tradition for at least two generations and I can't explain why because they don't add much to the plate beyond a colorless, bland, creamy blob. All the same I've been craving them with just a few minor adjustments...
Here's my take on the classic: red pearl onions help to break up the color monotony and the béchamel sauce gets a big splash of Vermouth, dollop of grain mustard, and pinch of nutmeg. Added pecorino shavings, earthy chanterelle mushrooms, and fresh thyme sprigs equals total rustic decadence.
I have a PolyScience Smoking Gun and I smoked the whole dish at the end with apple chips to give a woods-y essence. If you have one of these tools then use it for this! Creamy dishes are delicious smoked. If not, no worries, this dish is ridiculously good and it can be made the day before and reheated in the oven (uncovered) before serving.
Creamed Pearl Onions, Pancetta, Chanterelles, & Thyme
serves 4-6 people
2 bags white pearl onions
1 bag red pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons Extra Dry Vermouth
2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 generous handful of chanterelles (they are expensive!) choose small firm ones if possible. If the chanterelles are large tear them in half or in quarters. If they are mushy stay clear and substitute.
5 springs fresh thyme, chopped
Pecorino shavings and crumbled cooked pancetta (optional) to cover
Preheat oven to 425˚F
Cook red and white onions (with peel on) separately in two small pots of simmering salted water until just tender, 5-7 minutes. Shock onions in cold water until cool. Peel using a pairing knife starting at the base of the onion and removing the outer paper skin only. Reserve.
Melt butter in a small sauce pot over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and cook whisking constantly until roux bubbles and is thickened, 3 minutes. (Do not burn roux and take off heat if it starts to turn brown.) Add milk, whisking frequently until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without dripping, about 4 minutes. Off heat whisk in mustard, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Vermouth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat a nonstick skillet on high with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When oil shimmers sauté chanterelle mushrooms until they release their juices. Sear mushrooms quickly to avoid them turning mushy and do not crowd pan or they will steam instead. Season with salt. Reserve.
In a shallow baking dish, suitable for presenting table side, cover base of dish with béchamel. Add onions and chanterelles. Pour more béchamel overtop allowing for the mushrooms and onions to poke through. Sauce should fill the dish half way up the sides. Sprinkle fresh thyme, pancetta, and pecorino shavings over top.
Bake for 10-15 minutes at 425˚F until bubbling and browned on top. Serve hot!
Note to Cook: This dish can be prepared the day before. Keep mushrooms, onions, and béchamel separate. Assemble the day of and bake at 425˚F for 15 minutes.