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Archive for the ‘Side dishes’ Category

Three onion casserole fresh from the oven.

We decided to spend both Christmas and New Year’s weekends at home this year. We’d traveled for Thanksgiving and that was enough for us. On top of the two long weekends, I also had two personal days at work that I needed to use before the end of the year – so I ended up with two 4-day weekends in a row. For someone who loves to cook, this was pure luxury! Definitely not an opportunity to be wasted – and I tried not to, as I will try to recap in the next couple of posts.

In the spirit of taking a festive approach to this opportunity, I sat down with one of my most appropriately festive cookbooks: The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Doesn’t the name just say it all? This book does not contain heart- or waistline-friendly recipes. But how often do you have an excuse to cook really decadent party food? (As opposed to a beautiful-yet-healthy potluck dish, for example?) For those rare times when you do – this book does not disappoint.

And indeed, it was not long before I was mentally bookmarking various ideas, but I finally found the one. The one I could not imagine NOT making for a long holiday weekend. It had the simple name of Three-Onion Casserole and was billed as an ‘accompaniment.’ But don’t be fooled: this dish’s size (it filled a 9×13″ pan above the brim), cost (almost $50 worth of ingredients, most of them various kinds of cheese) and flavor (wine, garlicky boursin, herb-flecked dill Havarti, and slow-roasted leeks and onions topped off with crusty, deliciously browned Gruyere) are no side show. If you were to bring this beautiful, fragrant and filling casserole to a winter party, your brilliance and generosity would not soon be forgotten. I didn’t; I just made it for the two of us, for New Year’s weekend.

One more note about this dish: it is labor-intensive, perhaps only suited for one of those 3- or 4-day weekends when cold weather has you trapped indoors anyway. There is simply no way to make light work of slicing this many onions, nor do Havarti or Gruyere typically come pre-grated. Just hang in there and get it done; you will be richly rewarded. It may seem completely inconceivable, but Tomas and I ate this whole casserole by ourselves. Eventually. I think it took about a week… but boy, those leftovers made for the best lunches ever. Like extending the holidays right into the work week.

Three-Onion Casserole (adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, 1985)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 leeks, tough green ends cut off, well rinsed and thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated Havarti (I used Dill Havarti and enjoyed the extra boost of herbs. I was unsure of how much solid cheese to buy at the store, but found that a smallish 1/2-pound block of Havarti made more than enough)

2 packages (5 oz. each) Boursin, crumbled

1 1/2 cups Gruyere, grated (one 1/2-pound block was enough; I couldn’t tell and bought two, which cost me dearly but gives me an excuse to make fondue soon)

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13″ baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the butter. Layer a third of each of the onions in the bottom of the dish and season with salt and pepper. Top with the grated Havarti. Create another layer of onions, seasoning again with salt and pepper. Top this layer with the crumbled Boursin, distributing it as evenly as possible. Layer the last third of the onions and leeks on top and top with the grated Gruyere. Dot the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter on top and pour the white wine over all. Bake for 1 hour, covering the dish with aluminum foil after 30-45 minutes or when it is sufficiently browned to prevent the top from burning. Serve immediately (but makes fabulous leftovers).

A mound of onions and cheese (way more than I had imagined - I had to switch dishes to try to fit all the food that this recipe generated!)

The Silver Palate cookbook says that this makes 6 servings, but perhaps that was in 1985. I would argue that it could easily feed 12 people if they help themselves to fairly generous portions. This would be a great side dish for any kind of steak or filet, but I enjoyed it with brussel sprouts, good bread and sweet potatoes.

You might only want to make this once a year, but I can imagine it becoming quite an addictive tradition at that time of year…

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This incredible recipe is apparently originally from Food & Wine Magazine, though I am sure that I first  found it somewhere else – another take-off, no doubt, but I can see why. I made this for Thanksgiving two years ago and promptly made it again for Christmas. Last year, I made something different (still sweet potatoes, but with ginger and coconut) – and I missed the heck out of this recipe and wished I’d made it instead. This recipe produces a super-smooth, lusciously creamy, sweetly fragrant sweet potato puree that has a most tantalizing vanilla aroma. I admit I am a real vanillaholic, but I just can’t find any other sweet potato dish that comes anywhere close to this one.

It’s amusing to me, now that I have this online recipe journal, how often I look up a recipe here when I can’t remember where else I’ve got it written down. So, in the spirit of archiving my favorite cooking experiences digitally, and of adding my voice to the many out there who have already enthusiastically endorsed this recipe – here it is, with credit to the various versions floating in cyberspace.

I should note that the two versions I’ve seen use either heavy cream (Food and Wine) or half and half. I’ve made it with half-and-half both times so that is what I am posting here, but I have no doubt that the original version is even more decadent and wonderful, and frankly I can’t wait to try it that way too.

4 lbs sweet potatoes

1 cup half-and-half or whipping cream

4 Tbsp butter

1/2 vanilla bean

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and bake for 35-45 minutes, until tender. Let cool, then peel and transfer to a food processor. Puree until fairly smooth. (I had to stop several times and dig around in the Cuisinart to dislodge stubborn chunks of sweet potato; I finally just went on to the next step and added the cream, which loosened things up nicely). 

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, heat the cream or half-and-half in a small saucepan with the butter. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture; drop the bean pod in as well. Stir well and heat just until it simmers. Remove from heat and let it steep until the potatoes are done. 

Remove the vanilla bean from the cream mixture. With the food processor on, carefully pour the vanilla cream into the sweet potatoes and process until smooth. Season the sweet potato puree with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

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