The smell of baking onions drives the hungry wild!
One of my favorite commentators on Vermont Public Radio for many years was the late Janet Green, whose homespun reflections were often memorable in some way. In one of her programs, she talked about what to do when dinner is going to be a bit late, how to stave off the hungry. She said to put an onion in the oven to roast and the aroma will drive everyone wild, but they will know they are having something good for dinner. Of course, she said, you have to follow through with a really good dinner.
‘You’ll want to eat whatever is cooking’
While I’ve never actually done this intentionally, I’ve thought about this story often when roasting vegetables. I’ll always throw some onions on the pan, not only because they will taste really good, but because they do make the house smell enticing; you’ll want to eat whatever is cooking.
When Vidalia onions come in season, this dish finds its way to my table. It is sort of a baked version of the popular fair-food “blooming onion” a battered and deep-fried concoction that is like a giant onion ring with probably a thousand calories even without the dipping sauce.
If you are having a party, this is beautiful on a special platter dressed up with parsley, or served as a first course. But it is equally at home on the supper plate as a side dish or even as a whole meal for a light supper served with a side salad.
Look for onions that are approximately the same size so you will have uniform cooking.
Heavenly Baked Blooming Onions
4 sweet onions such as Vidalia
Salt and pepper
4 tsp. butter
4 tsp. of fruity, extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. fresh bread crumbs
1½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. sweet paprika
Prepare the onions: Remove outer dead layers from the onions. Cut off the top of the onion so a good deal of the onion is exposed, but leave the root end in-tact. Cut “cross hatch” marks on top of onion, through two thirds of onion, but be careful not to cut to the bottom; you do not want the onion to separate and fall apart before cooking. If you place wooden chopsticks on the sides of the onion, or cradle it in the bowl of a deep wooden spoon, it will act as a guard when you slice, preventing you from accidentally slicing all the way through.
Place them in a buttered casserole dish and tent with foil.
Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes to loosen them up.
While the onions are cooking, combine the olive oil, Parmesan, bread crumbs, thyme, and paprika and set aside.
Remove them from the oven, take off the foil, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Season with some salt and pepper and a tsp. of butter on each. The butter should immediately melt into the onion. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the onions.
Return to the oven for at least 30 minutes more, or until top is nicely browned and onions have softened and “bloomed” the petals separating into a lovely little flower! You should be able to separate the petals easily. If not, put them back in the oven for a bit.
For a dinner party: Prepare ahead of time and cook through the first bake; they take only a minute to pop in the oven, and you can visit with your guests while they are transformed in your hot oven.
Make a quick dipping sauce: Combine a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise, a couple of teaspoons of ketchup, a tablespoon of horseradish, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Taste and correct according to how you like it seasoned.
© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen.